The National Archives Catalog

Lifecycle Data Requirements Guide Abbreviations Style Guide


This guide provides basic guidance on the use of abbreviations in archival descriptions. It addresses some of the most common issues that relate to abbreviations:

For fuller guidance on these and other topics, consult:

Geographic Terms

Completely spell out states, territories, and countries. The only exceptions are the former U.S.S.R. and Washington, DC.

Do not use postal code abbreviations for state names.

For example, use:

Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, CA

Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh, NC

However, use:

Washington, DC
Washington, District of Columbia

Use of U.S. and United States

U.S.: Use the abbreviation U.S. as an adjective, but spell out United States when used as a noun. U.S. Government, U.S. foreign policy, U.S. citizen.

United States: United States Code, foreign policy of the United States. Always spell out United States in formal writing (e.g., in Executive orders and proclamations).


Dates must be fully written out (August 1973 or August 10, 1973). The month is never abbreviated.

the June 1970 report

The Commission held hearings in Washington, DC from February 15 to 17, 1972.

Fiscal Year

When using the term "Fiscal Year", spell it out the first time it is used followed by acronym in parentheses (i.e., Fiscal Year (FY) 2004.) Use only the acronym (i.e., FY 2004) for the remainder of the description.

Personal Titles

The following titles are not abbreviated: President, Commander-in-Chief, Governor, Senator, Congressman/Congresswoman, and Representative. "Secretary" is spelled out when it refers to an individual at the Cabinet level or at the international level. Secretary of the Treasury is correct, not Sec. of the Treasury or Treasury Sec.

Titles of military rank are abbreviated when they precede a full name (Lt. George Armstrong Custer) but not when only the last name is used (Lieutenant Custer).

See the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual Military Rank abbreviations and the Department of Defense Imagery and Caption Style Guide Enclosure 1 Military Titles.


When citing a particular law, statute, regulation, or Executive order, use the abbreviated form. When referring to these items in general, spell out the names. For more specialized guidance on citations, see the Federal Register's Document Drafting Handbook.

Citation Description
E.O. 12226 An Executive order will be issued.
Pub. L. 89-1 Every six years, public laws are incorporated into the
15 U.S.C. 311 United States Code.
80 Stat. 1423 Statutes at Large
36 CFR part 1200 Look in the Code of Federal Regulations.
36 CFR 1200.1 (reference to a section with the part)