I received a document where one collaborator italicized aka and another did not. Should aka be italicized?


Aka doesn't need italicising. It can be written and will be understood both with and without periods, although I see it usually written without.

Style guides will differ on the periods. As a counter-example to the somewhat heavyweight CMOS, the Guardian recommend to use aka without periods. Unusually, the guide also shows it in capitals, but a quick look in the paper shows nine lowercase aka without periods and one uppercase AKA without periods. (Edit: I asked the style guide editors and they recommend AKA because it's pronounced as individual letters.)

So: italics are not needed, and follow your own style guide (if you have one), or pick a style and apply it consistently.

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  • CMOS stands for The Chicago Manual of Style. – john c. j. Aug 4 at 19:04

This abbreviation, a.k.a., isn't derived from foreign words in the first place, so there was never a need to italicize it.

Moreover, the common abbreviations that were originally derived from foreign words, such as etc., i.e., and e.g., are considered a standard part of the English language, and most sources don't recommend italicizing those, either.

Regarding writing a.k.a. with periods, CMoS "recommends the following general guidelines in nontechnical settings" (when I would have expected to find these used in more technical or formal settings):

Use periods with abbreviations that end in a lowercase letter: p. (page), vol., e.g., i.e., etc., a.k.a., a.m., p.m., Ms., Dr., et al. (et is not an abbreviation; al. is). An exception may be made for the few academic degrees that end in a lowercase letter (e.g., DLitt, DMin); see 10.20 and rule 3.

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The abbreviation a.k.a., meaning “also known as”, need not be italicized, but it should have periods after each letter indicating it is an abbreviation.

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  • Would this be a case where I can use my newly-discovered word grammaticalisation? Anyway, even if aka isn't an example of that, I don't really think the periods are important outside of legal documentation. – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '11 at 0:08
  • @FumbleFingers Odd how grammaticalization looks shorter when spelled (spelt?) with an s. – Gnawme Dec 20 '11 at 0:12
  • @Gnawme: I think that too, but I've always assumed it's because as a Brit I'm expecting an "s" in such words, so I kinda "linger" over the unfamiliar "z". Perhaps you're a closet Anglophile, or a crypto-Brit! – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '11 at 0:19
  • @FumbleFingers It seems that too many years of watching F1 (and reading F1 publications) have left their mark. (Crypto-Brit is an interesting concept...) – Gnawme Dec 20 '11 at 0:40
  • Whether to use periods between initials is a matter of style. Do the same thing as you would do with USA or RSPCA. – slim Dec 20 '11 at 10:47

I think it needs some kind of indication that it is an abbreviation. Even then not everyone will understand it, so in cases of doubt it's best to write it in full. (I associate it with the UK’s satirical magazine ‘Private Eye’).

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Don't use italics. Italics are for foreign words, but a.k.a. is English ("also known as").

However, I do recommend that you include periods after every letter as a guide to pronunciation.

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  • "Italics are for foreign words" - but also for emphasis and many other purposes, so this logic doesn't work. – slim Dec 22 '11 at 18:02
  • I was explaining why some initialisms are written in italics and others are not, because that is probably how the confusion arose. A full explanation of all the uses of italics would be off-topic. – Pitarou Dec 23 '11 at 11:33

You need some indication that it is an abbreviation rather than a word (as most answers agree). Italics usually indicate a foreign origin, so are probably inappropriate, but full stops after each letter would be fine, and capitals (AKA) would be even better. However, the abbreviation does have a flavour of police bulletins: spelling it out in full would be my preference.

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Italicization helps when periods are omitted: so you do not mistake it for a word, probably even a typo or neologism. Beyond that, ital. is not an issue of grammar in this case.

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This AKA is for Alpha Kappa Alpha, a university sorority. Also known as would be a.k.a.

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  • 2
    I think some citation would be needed here - if you wish to be taken seriously. – Nigel J Dec 7 '17 at 4:32
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    It's hard to see how this response is relevant to the posted question. – Sven Yargs Dec 7 '17 at 7:06
  • The question is should "aka" be italicized. Answer posts that are not attempts to answer the question may be removed. See: “Why and how are some answers deleted? - Help Center”. On the other hand, we welcome all kinds of discussion at our English Language & Usage Chat. Please join us there! – MetaEd Dec 7 '17 at 14:33
  • This clearly is an attempt to answer the question, albeit probably tongue in cheek. Those of us who answered assumed that the "aka" in question stood for "also known as", which is not in fact spelt out. – Tim Lymington Dec 7 '17 at 16:08
  • The posted question is "Should aka be italicized?"—not "What does aka stand for?" User270585's answer would have been responsive to the posted question if, after identifying a.k.a. as standing for Alpha Kappa Alpha, it had gone on to state whether a.k.a. (or aka) should be italicized—and better yet, if it had explained why user270585 held that view. – Sven Yargs Dec 10 '17 at 0:21

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