Organizations & People
Pure Appl. Chem.,
Vol. 52, No. 9, pp. 2229-2232, 1980
Committee on Nomenclature and Symbols
Use of abbreviations in the chemical
(IUPAC Recommendations 1979)
Prepared for publication by David
R. Lide, Jr.
Office of Standard Reference Data, National Bureau of Standards, Washington,
D.C. 20234, USA
Abbreviations for techniques, compounds, and concepts have long been
used in the scientific literature. Whereas this practice may have advantages
for communication among scientists working in the same field as the
user, it can contribute substantially to difficulties in communication
between scientists working in different fields, as well as in teaching
and abstracting. The proliferation of abbreviations composed of sequences
of initial letters selected from the words, or from syllables, of frequently
used terms has undesirable consequences and is therefore of concern
to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
In consequence, the Interdivisional Committee on Nomenclature and Symbols
(IDCNS) makes the following recommendations concerning the introduction
and use of such initialled abbreviations in the chemical literature.
(1) IUPAC nomenclature commissions are encouraged to examine periodically
the usage of abbreviations in their areas of responsibility and to compile
appropriate recommendations. These recommendations should be considered
(2) Editors and authors should be urged by the appropriate
nomenclature commissions to reduce the number of abbreviations introduced
in primary publications and textbooks to a minimum. A particular effort
should be made to avoid abbreviations that either (a) unnecessarily
duplicate the recommended satisfactory abbreviations or symbols (cf.
7a below), or (b) are seriously ambiguous in their possible meanings,
or (c) are based on incorrect use of language or grammar.
(3) Since the style in which abbreviations are given (e.g., capital
letters or small letters, with or without full stops) often depends
upon well-established practices that vary widely from one journal to
another, IUPAC does not recommend a specific style for general use.
Abbreviations (symbols) for units are specified by the Système
International (SI) and should never be altered. It is preferable not
to abbreviate physical quantities; instead, the recommended symbol in
italic type font should be used (e.g., r
instead of dens. for mass density).
(4) IUPAC, through IDCNS, should recommend relatively few abbreviations,
and these would normally be well-established ones.
(5) The use of abbreviations in the titles and abstracts of papers should
be strongly discouraged.
(6) There are great advantages in defining all abbreviations,
including those that are officially recommended by IUPAC or other bodies,
in a single conspicuous place in each paper. This is preferably done
near the beginning of the paper in a single list. In order to set an
example, all IUPAC documents should follow this practice.
(7) The following categories of abbreviations are suggested
for formulating IUPAC recommendations:
(a) Recommended - those that are well established in the general
chemical literature (e.g., DNA, NMR) and whose use without explanation
is permissible. However, if other abbreviations in the paper must
be explained, as recommended in (6), these should
also be included.
(b) Acceptable - those that are useful in a given context
but not well established in the general literature (even though they
may be used frequently in specialized journals). These abbreviations
should be defined as in (6) above. Examples are FT
for Fourier transform, AAS for atomic absorption spectroscopy, and
TMS for tetramethylsilane.
(c) Unacceptable - those that are considered to be unsuitable
for reasons given in (2) above and whose use is to
be discouraged by the appropriate IUPAC bodies.
Some current IUPAC recommendations regarding abbreviations may be found
in the following documents:
- IUPAC: Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry, 2nd Edition, Sec. 7.35,
Butterworths, London (1970).
- List of Standard Abbreviations (Symbols) for Synthetic Polymers and
Polymer Materials, Pure Appl. Chem. 40, 473-476 (1974).
- Approved Recommendation (1978): Quantities and Units in Clinical Chemistry,
Pure Appl. Chem. 51, 2451-2479 (1979). Also published
in Clin. Chim. Acta 96, 157-183F (1979).
- Approved Recommendation (1978): List of Quantities in Clinical Chemistry,
Pure Appl. Chem. 51, 2481-2502 (1979). Also published
in Clin. Chim. Acta 96, 185-204F (1979).
- Rules Approved 1974: Abbreviations and Symbols for Description of
Conformation of Polypeptide Chains, Pure Appl. Chem. 40,
291-308 (1974). Also published in Handbook of Biochemistry and Molecular
Biology, 3rd Ed., Proteins, Volume I, 59-74; ibid. Volume II,
63-78, CRC Press, Cleveland (1976).
- Recommendations for Nomenclature of Thermal Analysis, Pure Appl.
Chem. 37, 439-444 (1974).
- Guide to Trivial Names, Trade Names and Synonyms for Substances Used
in Analytical Nomenclature, Pure Appl. Chem. 50, 339-370
- Rules Approved 1974: Abbreviations and Symbols for Nucleic Acids,
Polynucleotides and Their Constituents, Pure Appl. Chem. 40,
277-290 (1974). Also published in Hrana Ishrana 18, 473-489
- Recommendations for Symbolism and Nomenclature for Mass Spectroscopy,
Pure Appl. Chem. 50, 65-73 (1978). Also published in Int.
J. Mass Spectrom. Ion Phys. 29, 392-398 (1979).
- Definitive Rules: A One-Letter Notation for Amino Acid Sequences,
Pure Appl. Chem. 21, 639-645 (1972). Also published in
Handbook of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 3rd Ed., Proteins, Volume
I, 75-78; ibid. Volume II, 59-62, CRC Press, Cleveland (1976).
- Abbreviated Nomenclature of Synthetic Polypeptides (Polymerized Amino
Acids), Pure Appl. Chem. 33, 437-444 (1973).
- Revised Tentative Rules (1965): Abbreviations and Symbols for Chemical
Names of Special Interest in Biological Chemistry, Eur. J. Biochem.
1, 259-266 (1967). Also published in Biochemistry 5,
1445-1453 (1966); Biochem. J. 101, 1-7 (1966).
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