IRA Style Guide

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Acronyms and initialisms

What's the difference?
Both acronyms and initialisms are groups of letters that stand for a group of words. The distinction has to do with the way they are pronounced: True acronyms are pronounced as words (ERIC, JAAL, and UNESCO are good examples). Properly speaking, groups of letters that are pronounced separately (e.g., IRA, DNA, FBI) are initialisms. In common usage the distinction is ignored, and all such letter groups are referred to as acronyms. References to acronyms in this guide hold true for initialisms, as well.

acronyms, general rules
1. In most cases, spell out the word in full the first time it appears in an author’s work, and follow the full spelling with the acronym in parentheses. (If the acronym is better known than the full form, use the acronym first and follow with the full spelling in parentheses.) Thereafter, use the acronym only.

2. As a general rule, do not use an acronym unless it will be used again in the written piece (in the case of a short work, used at least one more time; in the case of a longer work, used several times). The advantage of using the acronym is lost if the reader has to spend a lot of time hunting down its meaning.

3. More obscure acronyms and abbreviations are listed in M.R. Bonk, ed., Acronyms, Initialisms, & Abbreviations Dictionary. (1997). Detroit, MI: Gale Research. Acronyms and abbreviations from many fields may also be found on The World Wide Web Acronym and Abbreviation Server.

4. Because of its politically charged connotations overseas, avoid using the acronym IRA to refer to the International Reading Association on items that will reach an international audience. Spell out the full name, refer to “the Association,” or rephrase as necessary.

common acronyms and initialisms

ACT American College Test

NAS National Academy of Sciences
ADD attention-deficit disorder NBPTS National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
ADHD attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

NCAL National Center on Adult Literacy
AFT American Federation of Teachers NCATE National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education
ALA American Library Association NCES National Center for Education Statistics
ALSC Association for Library Service to Children (a division of ALA)
NCLB No Child Left Behind
NCLD National Center for Learning Disabilities
a.m. ante meridiem (morning) (lowercase or small caps, with periods)
NCTE National Council of Teachers of English
NEA National Education Association
AMS Association Management System

NGO nongovernmental organization
NICHD National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
AO Association Office NIE National Institute of Education (of U.S. Dept. of Education)
APA American Psychological Association

NIEW Newspapers in Education Week
ARA* Alabama Reading Association*

NIFL National Institute for Literacy
NIH National Institutes of Health
ASCD Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

NRC National Research Council (an arm of the National Academy of Sciences)
ASL American Sign Language

NRC National Reading Conference
BOCES Board of Cooperative Educational Service NRRC National Reading Research Center
CBC Children’s Book Council

NYU New York University
CCIRA Colorado Council of the International Reading Association

OCIRA Ohio Council of the International Reading Association
ODBC Open Database Connectivity
CCSSO Council of Chief State School Officers

OCLC Online Computer Library Center (information / cataloging system)
CD-ROM Compact Disk – Read-Only Memory

OECD Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
CIERA Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement

OERI Office of Educational Research and Improvement (of U.S. Dept. of Education)
CIS Commonwealth of Independent States

OISE Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
CISD Consolidated Independent School District

ORA Oklahoma Reading Association or Oregon Reading Association
CMS Chicago Manual of Style OSI Open Society Institute (Soros organization)
CRA California Reading Association, Connecticut Reading Association

PASS Program of Assisted Studies and Support (program in New York state public schools)
DEAR Drop Everything And Read PDF portable document format

DL-TA (also DLTA) = Directed Listening–Thinking Activity

PhD (Upper–lower–upper case. No periods)
DOE Department of Education, Department of Energy

p.m. post meridiem (afternoon, evening, night) (lowercase or small caps, with periods)
DR-TA Directed Reading–Thinking Activity PORPE Predict, Organize, Rehearse, Practice, Evaluate
DSRA Diamond State Reading Association (Delaware)

PISA Programme for International Student Assessment (study sponsored by OECD)
ELL English-language learner or English-language learning

PTA Parent Teacher Association
ERIC Educational Resources Information Center (at NIE, OERI, Washington, DC) PTO Parent Teacher Organization
ERR Evocation–Realization of Meaning–Reflection (comprehension strategy associated with OSI) PTSA

Parent Teacher Student Association

random-access memory

Elementary and Secondary Education Act

English as a Second Language

REAL Raising Early Achievement in Literacy (program of University of Sheffield, England)
ESOL English for Speakers of Other Languages

request for proposals
EST eastern standard time


Reading Is Fundamental, Inc.

FAQ frequently asked questions

ROL Reading Online
FRA Florida Reading Association

ROM read-only memory
FTP File Transfer Protocol

RPM revolutions per minute
HIV Human immunodeficiencey virus

RRQ Reading Research Quarterly
GRE Graduate Record Examination RS Running Start, a program associated with RIF
H.R. 1234 House Resolution 1234 (a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives) RSVP Retired and Senior Volunteer Program
H. Rept. 1234 House Report 1234 RT


The Reading Teacher

rich text format

Hypertext Markup Language

Hypertext Transfer Protocol

Response to Intervention

Reading Today
HUD (Department of) Housing and Urban Development RWCT Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking
IBBY International Board on Books for Young People S. 1234
Senate bill #1234

ICT information and communication technology SAT formerly, Scholastic Aptitude Test; more recently, Scholastic Assessment Test
IDEA Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

SCIRA South Carolina State Council of IRA, or Swedish Council of IRA
IERI Interagency Education Research Initiative

SD standard deviation

International Leadership Conference

Intelligence quotient
SEAs state education agencies (compare LEAs, local education agencies)
ILN International Literacy Network

SIG Special Interest Group
IRC Illinois Reading Council

SQ3R a study technique (survey-question-read-recite-review)
ISP Internet service provider

SSR Sustained Silent Reading
ISD Independent School District

SSRW Sing, Spell, Read & Write (K–3 program)

information technology

Iowa Test of Basic Skills


short-term memory

State University of New York
JAAL the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy

Thinking Classroom
JR The Journal of Reading

TC/P Thinking Classroom/Peremena
KRA Kansas Reading Association
TCP/IP Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol
KSRA Keystone State (Pennsylvania) Reading Association
TESOL Teachers of English as a Second Language
UKRA United Kingdom Reading Association
K-W-L (What I know, what I want to learn; what I have learned) strategy for increasing comprehension of expository text; must be credited to Donna Ogle. UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
LAN local area network UNICEF United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund
LEA Language Experience Approach

Universal Postal Union
LEAs local education agencies (compare SEAs, state education agencies) URL Uniform Resource Locator
LyV Lectura y Vida

USD Unified School District
LEP Limited English Proficiency

USPS United States Postal Service
LSAT Law School Admission Test

USSR uninterrupted sustained silent reading
LVA Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc.

WISC Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
MBD minimal brain dysfunction WISC-R (revised) Use a hyphen, rather than an en-dash.)
MUD multi-user domain

WJ-R Woodcock–Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery–Revised
NAA Newspaper Association of America

WNWD Webster’s New World Dictionary
NAEP National Assessment of Educational Progress

XML Extensible Markup Language
NAESP National Association of Elementary School Principals
YALS Young Adult Literacy Survey (1985)

National Adult Literacy Survey (1992)

National Association for the Education of Young Children

YALSA Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association (ALA)

ZPD Zone of Proximal Development (term associated with L. Vygotsky)

*also, Arizona Reading Association; Arkansas Reading Association; Austrian Reading Association. (Use the acronym only when the context makes clear which organization is meant.)

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