Content style guide
Abbreviations and acronyms
Our approach on abbreviations and acronyms is aligned with the AP Stylebook. In general, we try to avoid them unless they are very common and familiar to the general public. This aligns with our plain language content principles to be more human and less jargon heavy.
Common VA acronyms are listed along with other terms on the word list.
In general we don’t use abbreviations on VA.gov except common cases such as a.m./p.m., titles used before names (Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.), and degrees (Ph.D., M.D., etc.).
In formats where space is very limited, like callout boxes or alerts, we abbreviate days and months. When in doubt, follow AP Stylebook.
For acronyms, use the spelled-out term on first mention in body copy with the acronym in parentheses; then the acronym alone on subsequent mentions.
- On first mention: Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI)
- After first mention: TSGLI
Exceptions for page titles, headers, and meta title tags
If the spelled-out term is too long for easy scanning in the page title (H1) or to fit within the character count for meta title tags, it’s OK to use the acronym by itself for the H1 and meta title tag. Just define it in the first mention within body copy, using the spelled-out term with the acronym in parentheses.
- Note: There may be cases where for SEO purposes or to use the term that Veterans are more familiar with, we use the acronym (or vice versa) by itself in the H1 or headers. In general, default to first using the term that Veterans recognize better, especially in H1s and headers.
This example uses the acronym in the header because it’s what Veterans recognize better and the term they use in searches. The spelled-out term is used at the first mention in the body copy.
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Avoid using internal acronyms
Always spell out the names of VA offices instead of using the internal acronym on external-facing pages. This helps avoid confusion when there are offices that share the same acronym. (Example: The Office of Community Care, Office of Corporate Communications, and Office of Connected Care, all refer to their office as OCC.)
Per the AP Stylebook: “Names not commonly before the public should not be reduced to acronyms solely to save a few words.” See also our guidance on naming and labels for information on acronyms and branding.