I tend to not use the word ‘the’ in front of acronyms, but I see this used in documents more and more.

REIP provides regional outreach services to Northeastern Ontario.


The REIP provides regional outreach services to Northeastern Ontario.

If the word ‘program’ is added after REIP, I would use ‘the.’

Which is correct?

  • It varies enormously, and for no apparent reason. Whilst we talk about 'the BBC', 'the UN', 'the CBI', 'the NHS' etc. and the Americans talk about 'the FBI', we also refer to NATO, NASA and plenty of others which don't attract an article. On a previous post there is a considerable list of both types. – WS2 Dec 3 '14 at 17:36
  • 2
    In general, I'd use "the" with initialisms (e.g., the FBI: "eff-bee-eye") and no article with acronyms (e.g., NATO: "naytoh"). I don't know if there's a formal rule for this. – apsillers Dec 3 '14 at 17:38

In my experience, this comes down to the difference between acronyms and initialisms. Acronyms are pronounced as a words, while initialisms have each of their letters pronounced individually.

I would expect to hear the FBI, because FBI is an initialism (aloud: "eff-bee-eye"). Whenever its full form (Federal Bureau of Investigation) is normally preceded by "the," I would expect its initialized form to be as well. For organizations that do not normally have a leading "the," I probably would not expect one for its initialized form, either, but I cannot think of an example.

I would not expect to hear the NATO, even when I would expect to hear the full form as "the North Atlantic Treaty Organization", because NATO is an acronym (aloud: "nay-toh", not "enn-ay-tee-oh").

Of course, I would expect the NATO member when NATO is used an adjective to describe the member of NATO.

I have never heard a formal rule for this.

  • 3
    The formal rule is simple: NATO is a proper noun (because it is pronounced as one word) while FBI is not (because it is pronounced as separate letters). – Kevin Dec 3 '14 at 20:35

Acronyms are abbreviations that are pronounced as words. Examples:

  • NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
  • AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)

When using an acronym as a noun, do not put an article before the abbreviation

  • REIP provides regional outreach services to Northeastern Ontario.

On the other hand, when you are using the acronym as an adjective, you then add “the.”

  • The REIP assessment was carried out last week.
  • Are these quotations from a style guide? If so, which? – jvriesem May 4 at 22:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.