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I am the webmaster/editor/curator for a website/e-magazine focussing on a game system. Reviews of scenarios published for the game system are a regular feature, and it’s frequently the case that a required add-on product will be named. Often, the add-on is well-enough known that the review author will often just refer to it by its initials (e.g., a product called Guns of the World might be referred to as “GotW”.

In the past, I've been less than entirely consistent in handling formatting in the magazine and on the website. I am starting to write a style guide for myself.

How should I handle these abbreviated titles? As I see it, my choices are:

  1. Expand the initials into the full title, and then format it as I would any title (italics, usually)
  2. Leave the initials as initials, but format them as I would the title (e.g., GotW)
  3. Do neither, leaving the initials as unformatted initials.

Which is most consistent with ‘normal’ practice?

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  • Unfortunately this seems like an opinion-based question. Ask yourself why you’d want to use the abbreviation over the full name. Is it for the space? Is it because you want to match how your audience talks about these things? Etc. Then make your rule to allow that and disallow any other reasons. – Jim Mar 28 at 19:43
  • Bear in mind that you don't want to put off newcomers to your game system. There is no way to guarantee that everyone reading your reviews will be familiar with any given add-on, let alone its initials. The full name needs to appear at least once in each post, even if it's under a hyperlink, or some people won't know what you're talking about. – BoldBen Mar 28 at 21:42
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It's normal to italicize the abbreviation of an italicized title. The MLA Style Center recommends that: Should the acronym of an italicized title be set in italics?

Some publications now recommend against italicizing titles at all (The Guardian), but if you are italicizing titles, you should do abbreviations too.

Looking at random video game websites, Kotaku italicizes both; IGN italicizes neither.

As to whether you expand them, it's normal to do that on first use, but use an abbreviation after: in formal texts you would say "The Last of Us (TLOU)" and then afterwards use TLOU, but in less formal texts you may rely on people to infer the abbreviation's meaning. The exception is very commonly known abbreviations which needn't be spelt out (something like CNN or IBM); you will have to judge what they are.

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  • I definitely expand them on first use, even when they're well-known in the community that the site/magazine is aimed at. It was the subsequent initials-only usage that I was interested in; in this, I disagree with IGN and The Guardian - I feel that titles of books, movies, TV/radio/streaming shows, et cetera should be italicized; short stories and episode names (of TV/radio/streaming/etc. shows) should be in quotes and unitalicized, and based on this answer, I will be leaving subsequent uses of initials unexpanded but treating them as I would the expanded form. Thank you. – Jeff Zeitlin Mar 30 at 14:58

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