The example that I have is from South Africa. Chartered accountants here abbreviate their titles in emails to:


This is meant to abbreviate "Chartered Accountant (South Africa)". I feel, however, that this may be a mistake that is propagated by a precedent set by other accountants.

Is it not more correct to use a space?


Orthographically, this seems more consistent to me.


There is no question about spaces in the original phrase: "Chartered Accountant (South Africa)". Instead, the question is about whether parentheses need spaces when the whole phrase is abbreviated.


The general question is: How does a bracket, preceded by a space, compile to an abbreviation? When the phrase in question refers to a named entity it seems like common courtesy is to use whichever style the entity itself prefers.

  • 2
    Does it really matter? And if so, why?
    – BillJ
    Oct 19, 2018 at 16:21
  • I am not sure what constitutes whether something matters, but I prefer there to be a correct way, even if multiple options are correct.
    – mikorym
    Oct 20, 2018 at 17:09
  • But from functional point of view, all South African accountants sign their emails with "CA(SA)" so it is a abbreviation in common circulation. Commonly used language usually appears in style guides with recommendations; however, in this case I have not seen any linguistic recommendations. Specifically, I am curious about how a phrase containing parentheses compiles to an abbreviation.
    – mikorym
    Oct 20, 2018 at 17:16
  • Possible duplicate of Do parentheses need spaces either side? Oct 20, 2018 at 17:26
  • The difference here is that the whole of "CA(SA)" / "CA (SA)" is an abbreviation. However, your link does explain why I prefer there to always be spaces before an opening parenthesis.
    – mikorym
    Oct 20, 2018 at 17:30

2 Answers 2


Since the parenthetical part is inalienable from the non-parenthetical part when written out in full, the abbreviation without space is correct, in the sense of what conveys the most accurate impression to a native English reader.

The alternative that separates the parenthetical with a space, CA (SA), makes it appear to have two parts, the second being optional. Since the parenthetical is a non-optional part of the professional designation, the presence of a space gives the wrong impression.

Parentheses in an abbreviation do look odd to some English speakers, and a reasonable alternative would be CASA; however, that much of a rewrite of the profession’s own chosen abbreviation of their designation feels like a clear overreach by native English outsiders.

Hence, CA(SA) conveys the most accurate understanding of what it abbreviates: an abbreviated proper name with a parenthetical that is an integral part of the designation.

(It’s worth noting that I am including South Africa when I mention native English speakers above.)

  • 1
    Thanks. Your argument about the appearance of something being optional is, I think, an overriding consideration. Abbreviations are perhaps inherently exactly about impressions to the reader.
    – mikorym
    Jan 8, 2020 at 13:58

The first thing to consider is that we all have a right to our name, and second we need to understand the original concept and needs of the users.

While I was at university, a student living next door had his name changed by deed poll to 'Dill the dog'. This was his right, and if I had told he was wrong then I would have been in the wrong.

Chartered accountants deal with a lot of data, which often ends up being squeezed into innumerable tables, so they have a tendency to choose concise acronyms and titling.

I cannot access the SAICA page at the moment, but I can see that the Wikipedia page uses CA(SA) and the plural CAs(SA), and that it is used to express their qualification of chartered accountant. Wikipedia

  • 1
    Thanks for your input. I understand that when referring to a name, correctness is more subtle. But in general, are there style guidelines for a phrase that contains parentheses?
    – mikorym
    Oct 20, 2018 at 17:17
  • 1
    @mikorym There are so many different style guidelines for different publications that that is an impossible Q. to answer. As regards comments about a space before the brackets, if you followed that to its logical conclusion, you would have to write "C A (S A)" because there are spaces between all the words in the original. Why put spaces before the brackets, but not before the individual word contractions?
    – TrevorD
    Apr 21, 2019 at 13:38

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