When building an acronym, there are occasionally small words that can "slip through the cracks". For example, U.S.A actually stands for United States of America. NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The word 'the' is another one that is left out here and there.

Is there a definitive list of words that are allowed to be left out of acronyms? Is it all just subjective and a case-to-case basis? I'm asking because I'm currently working on an acronym, and I don't think the word "with" requires it's own letter.

  • 3
    Anything predictable can be left out of headlines. Predictable, at least, by an English language reader who's familiar with the local writing conventions. The same set of predictable, non-lexical words are called "Stop Words" in the text search trade. They are the most frequent words and the ones that don't have meanings, and you usually don't want to count them in wordlists. So look for lists of English stop words Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 18:19
  • 1
    @JohnLawler - I think that actually answered my question. Thank you very much! In fact, it also proved what I was thinking to be right. The word "with" shows up on every single list of stop words I can find. It also flows naturally in the acronym. How do you recommend I handle this post? Should I delete it, or would you be willing to post what you've said as an Answer so I can accept it? Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 18:30
  • 2
    But stop words do sometimes appear in acronyms, perhaps because the abbreviation would be too short or ambiguous without them. Two obvious examples from my current work are SoC (system on chip) and IoT (Internet of things). They are often lower-cased, as in these examples, but not always; for example, ROA (return on assets).
    – user184130
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 18:33
  • 2
    @FrancisBartkowiak In the case of SCOTUS (and POTUS) I guess the stop words are included so that the acronym is pronounceable as a word.
    – user184130
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 18:48
  • 2
    It's often the same words that don't get capitalized in headlines. Although if that 'T' from "the" needs to be in there to make a pleasing acronym, it'll get put in. Some words will get two letters in an acronym, usually from the start of distinct syllables. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 0:33

1 Answer 1


I don't think there is any definitive ruling on this. If you're building an acronym, then you decide to include or not include stop words. The objective should be to make the acronym more memorable or easier to say. I've reversed engineered acronyms for IT systems and I may or may not include stop words. Whatever works.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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