In my native language (Italian) there are convenient abbreviations for compare (cfr) and see or refer to (vd). Is there anything similar in English? Or should I just use the complete words see or refer to in these cases?

I am referring to something that I can use in an informal note, where citations and bibliography seem an overkill.


The method they developed gave better results respect the traditional methods (cfr “Traditional methods for the task”)

The results for those experiments (vd paragraph “Those Experiments”) show a direct correlation between A and B.

  • I wonder, why you want to abbreviate "see"? For compare you could use cmp which is regularly used in computer science. However, I'm not sure if it is used in formal context too.
    – Em1
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 9:16
  • I tried to search cmp on merriamwebster but I didn't find it. I want to express something like: - see that for the detailed description - compare that with what I am saying
    – laika
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 9:39
  • @Em1 One reason: Not so much to abbreviate as to set out from normal text, so the reader would not confuse the word see to be part of the narrative.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 11:38

4 Answers 4


In formal, and mostly older, academic texts in English you may sometimes see cf (compare) and vid (see), but they are not used elsewhere.

  • Thank you for the clarification. I have updated my question, is it good to always repeat the words "see" and "refer to" in these cases?
    – laika
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 8:03
  • Yes, in an informal text you have to repeat the complete words, or find alternatives. Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 8:04
  • Meta question: Should we take care to always avoid using cf. on ELU? (Okay, I may have to ask this on meta.)
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 11:36
  • @Kris: I take care to avoid Latin abbreviations wherever possible. Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 11:40
  • @Kris,Barrie: According to a site-specific Google search, "cf" occurs 907 times on ELU. Some of those are probably mine. I don't see a problem - if the reader isn't familiar with the usage, he can safely ignore "cf" completely without losing anything significant from the meaning of the text. Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 12:11

In formal legal citation in the US, cf. is always used for compare when it means support by analogy. See this article, Section 6-300(a).

However, there is no short form for see in legal cites.


It appears that you are asking in the context of technical/ scientific literature. In such a case there are some standard ways of referencing. Depending on the publication and other factors, you may be required to follow a certain style guide such as CMoS, please check with the publishers.

APA Style Guide recommends cf: compare (inside parentheses only) (pdf 20kB)

  • Thank you, but my question is more for common language usage. I am aware of bibliography formatting and reference styles. I am just curious to know what is common in English, in contexts like note-taking
    – laika
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 12:12
  • Your examples are not from 'common language usage', where see is the norm, if not the rule.
    – Kris
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 12:24
  • Yes, I agree that this isn't really common language... I am writing an email with notes on a research paper (but I am not writing part of a thesis or an article) ..those sentences where in my mind at the moment and I couldn't think of other more general examples!
    – laika
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 12:32
  • Anyway, I thought you were just talking about references styles like [1] or (Kris et al 2012). But I've seen the updated answer, thank you for the reference
    – laika
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 12:38

Another similar abbreviation is qv or q.v. (in latin literally "which see"), used when you want to direct the reader to another article or publication. Example usage:

q.v. How does one correctly use "q.v."?

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