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I would like to write a phrase of the type, A versus B, abbreviating versus; but I am not sure that which of ‘v’ or ‘vs’ is the correct abbreviation as I find both on the internet.

  • I'm not sure I understand what it would mean to have the two sides of an equation "slugging it out". How exactly are A and B in competition with each other? How is your text string (noun phrase?) an "equation"? – FumbleFingers Jan 2 '17 at 19:05
  • @NVZ et al. This question cannot be answered using commonly-available references, but requires considerable work and resources as my answer shows. In contrast to scientific SEs, it is difficult to show evidence of research and this requirement is hardly ever invoked (but one could easily add "I've searched the internet and find several different usages). I think my answer is a useful addition to this SE and will make a suggested addition to the edit and ask you to consider taking it off hold. – David Jan 3 '17 at 15:15
  • Duplicate: How should I abbreviate “versus”? – user140086 Jan 3 '17 at 15:43
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There are three alternative ways of abbreviating versus in English, as confirmed by Oxford Dictionaries online:

versus (also vs, v., v)

In addition, because the word is Latin in origin, there is a tendency to italicize it, especially when ‘v’ is used.

In fact vs. is also used, and appears to be more common than vs without the point, as shown by cursory browsing (e.g. example below) and this Google Books ngram:

Google ngram of vs. and vs

Thus, you have eight alternatives. The choice you make depends to some extent on the context (legal v. sport) and whether you are writing American or British English. This is mentioned in a related question on this list regarding ‘versus’, but as that is undocumented I shall expand on it below.

Legal use

Both in the US and Great Britain, the traditional legal abbreviation is ‘v.’. The original tendency to initialize it is illustrated with two facimilies:

Court cases and versus

[(a) Brown v. Board of Education, 1953; (b) Travers v. Wilde and Wilde, 1864 — Because of the use of italics for the title of the court case, the setting of ‘v.’ in Roman indicates its italic original.]

Contemporary usage is unitalicized ‘v.’, although there is a new tendency to use ‘vs.’ in the US press. This is exemplified by an article in the New York Daily News of May 16th, 2015, in which the headline is “Brown vs. Board of Ed. decision…” but the (modern) caption to an original 1954 photo on the same page is “Brown v. Board of Education segregation coverage” (my emboldening).

Sporting Fixtures

As far as I can ascertain the use of ‘v.’ or ‘v’ in sporting fixtures is a British phenomenon, not found in the US. I have used the ‘England versus Australia’ cricket fixture to follow the historical usage. A Google ngram shows that for many years ‘v.’ was almost the sole usage, but from the mid-1970s the use of ‘v’ has grown, so that today it is equally common, and is certainly what will be found on websites (e.g. BBC Sport). There was low usage of ‘vs.’, but ‘vs’ was not found.

Versus abbreviation in cricket fixtures

Whitaker’s Almanack for 1946 shows italicization: ‘v.’, although Hazell’s Annual for 1913 does not:

Cricket in almanacks and italics for v.

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  • I'll try to find examples of the different usages (US v. British, sport v. legal) and update my answer later. – David Jan 2 '17 at 20:31
  • I've seen v/s used also. – user116032 Jan 3 '17 at 3:27
  • I have now updated this with examples of various uses and consideration of the usage of vs or vs. – David Jan 3 '17 at 15:20

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