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Generally speaking, using abbreviations should be minimized as much as possible. These shortened forms can lead to confusion and misunderstanding which directly impacts accessibility. To ensure proper understanding by all readers, use the complete word or phrase, or an alternative based on context. Visit the plain language website for additional information. This includes basic abbreviations, initialisms, and acronyms.

  • Abbreviations - an abbreviation is a shortened or contracted form of a word or phrase, used to represent the whole, as Dr. for DoctorU.S. for United Stateslb. for pound.
  • Initialisms - abbreviations that are pronounced one letter at a time. This can range from VHA to OCHCO to USA. The most common we use are Office of Information and Technology (OIT) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
  • Acronyms - abbreviations that are pronounced as words. Within our normal workday, we encounter VistA or CARMA, and hundreds of other legitimate or made up ones. Avoid using them unless they are part of the global vernacular such as laser, radar, scuba, etc.

While there is not a prohibition on using the shortened form, they should be minimized as much as possible. If you cannot avoid using them, and they appear more than three times in the document, the first instance must be completely spelled out followed by the shortened form in parentheses. For webpages, each new page must have the short form redefined.


Use the word 'and' instead of the ampersand sign, '&', unless it is part of a company’s official name. While they may be visually appealing to some, they actually make text harder to read. Do not use ampersands in official office names or the abbreviated forms of offices if the initialism is required - Office of Information and Technology (OIT) , Office of Organization Development and Engagement (ODE), etc.


This website includes links to other websites outside our control and jurisdiction. VA is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of non-VA Web sites. We encourage you to review the privacy policy or terms and conditions of those sites to fully understand what information is collected and how it is used.

Statement of Endorsement

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.

Page last updated on February 7, 2022

Digital Accessibility Guide

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