Systematic treatment of names and titles

We are delighted to have recently published the first titles in our Critical Study Skills series. The extract below is taken from Academic Writing and Referencing for your Nursing Degree by Jane Bottomley and Steven Pryjmachuk


In nursing, you will often be required to refer to the names of medical conditions, such as ‘malaria’ or ‘Parkinson’s disease’, and to the titles of professional organisations, such as the National Health Service or the Nursing and Midwifery Council. When referring to these, it is important to establish the conventions regarding the use of capitalisation.

  • Most diseases and conditions are not capitalised, eg malaria, deep vein thrombosis, obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Diseases and conditions named after an individual capitalise the name, eg Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • The titles of organisations are capitalised, eg the National Health Service.

Many conditions and organisations are also known by their acronyms. An acronym is the short form of a multi-word name, usually formed using the first letter of each word, eg:

  • deep vein thrombosis (DVT);
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD);
  • the National Health Service (NHS);
  • the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

Often, people are more familiar with the acronym than the name, sometimes to the extent that they can be a little hazy on what it actually stands for!

In your writing, it is important to be systematic in your use of names and acronyms. The rule in academic writing is very simple: when you mention a term for the first time, you should use the full name, with the acronym following immediately in parenthesis; after this, you should always use the acronym. The following example demonstrates this clearly.

Lower extremity deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the most frequent venous thromboembolism (VTE) observed in hospitalised patients (Nutescu, 2007). One of the important and well-known risk factors of DVT development is surgery. If there are additional risk factors in a patient undergoing a surgical operation, the risk of DVT is increased even further (Geerts et al. 2012).

(Ayhan et al, 2015: 2246)

Systematic use of names and acronyms adds to the flow and coherence of the text.

Note that acronyms are different from abbreviations, which are formed by shortening a word, eg:

  • approx (approximately);
  • etc (from the Latin ‘et cetera’, meaning ‘and so on’).

The fact that something has been abbreviated is often indicated by the full stop at the end (approx. etc.), but this is often omitted (as in this book, for example). The important thing is to be consistent.

Read more about this book and other titles in the series here.