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The American Psychological Association (APA) publishes a widely-accepted documentation style guide for writers in the social sciences. The APA style guide allows individuals working in and studying the social sciences to be consistent when referencing sources used for research. Acronyms are widely used and understood abbreviations such as NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). NASA is an example of a true acronym as it is pronounced as a single word. APA is an example of an abbreviation as the proper pronunciation is the reading of each of the individual three letters (A – P – A).

Formatting Acronyms According to the APA Style Guide

Decide what terms you want to use an acronym for in your paper.

Write out the entire phrase the first time you use it, followed by the acronym in parenthesis.

Use only the acronym throughout your paper after the first reference unless there are multiple pages between the first reference and subsequent references. If there is the possibility that your reader may not remember what the acronym stands for then you may choose to write out the entire phrase again.