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Construction of the National Library of Medicine Title Abbreviations

This fact sheet discusses the rules currently used by NLM to construct title abbreviations for journals indexed in PubMed. Users should keep in mind that policies and procedures have changed over time at NLM, and they may encounter older title abbreviations that are not established according to the rules described below.

Guiding Principle

Each journal title indexed by NLM is assigned a unique title abbreviation. Existing title abbreviations are not changed to conform to current policies and procedures.

Standards Used

As of March 1, 2007, NLM generally establishes title abbreviations based on the form used by the ISSN Centre as their abbreviated key title, whenever this is available, editing only for format as described below:

  • The first letter of each word in the title abbreviation is capitalized.
  • All punctuation is removed, except for parentheses used when a qualifier is supplied.
  • All diacritics are removed.
  • Qualifying elements which refer to format, such as (Print) or (Online) are omitted.

How Title Abbreviations are Determined

The ISSN Centre constructs abbreviations generally using the same principles that NLM used prior to March 2007. The title abbreviation is based on the title proper of the journal at its first issue. The title proper includes part designations and section titles, if present, but does not include subtitle or parallel title (titles presented in other languages) information. See examples 1-2.

When a full title and an acronym both appear on the chief source of the journal (usually the title page or the cover), the fully spelled out form is always considered the title proper. See example 3.

Each word in the title proper is compared against a master list of abbreviations issued by the ISSN International Centre. If the word or word root is found in the master list, that abbreviation is used. If a word is not found in the ISSN list, the word appears in the title abbreviation as it appears in the title proper.

Articles, conjunctions, and prepositions are always omitted from title abbreviations.

For hyphenated words, each element is treated separately only if each word could stand alone. See example 4.

Exceptions to above rules:

  • One word titles are never abbreviated.

Note: Prior to March 2007, NLM only abbreviated the second element of compound words. After this date, each element of a compound word will be abbreviated when possible. See example 5.

Use of Qualifiers

As noted above, a fundamental principle of title abbreviation assignment is that each title abbreviation must be unique.  If two journals have the same title, or have titles which, when the above procedures are followed, would result in the same title abbreviation, one or more qualifying elements are added to the title abbreviation to make it unique. The original city of publication (using the approved abbreviation for a place name, if one exists) is the preferred qualifier. Other elements that may be added are:

  • Publisher name
  • Edition statement
  • Date of publication

Policy on Changes

If the title proper of the journal undergoes a major change, requiring the creation of a new bibliographic record for the journal, a new title abbreviation is assigned for the new journal. The guidelines for determining major changes in title proper are governed by the cataloging guidelines, Resource Description and Access (RDA).

If a journal title undergoes minor changes that do not require a new bibliographic record, the existing title abbreviation continues to be used.

  • Once the title abbreviation has been assigned, NLM and the ISSN Centre do not go back and change a title abbreviation qualified by place name, even if the place of publication changes over time. See example 6.
  • Title abbreviations are not changed to reflect additional titles in other languages under which the serial might also be known, even if the order of appearance of these titles changes on later issues.  See example 7



Example 1:

  Journal title is: Journal of neural transmission.  General section
  Title abbreviation is: J Neural Transm Gen Sect


Example 2:

  Journal title is: Arthritis care and research: the official journal of the Arthritis Health Professions Association
  Title abbreviation is: Arthritis Care Res


Example 3:

  On cover of journal: JMS
    Journal of mass spectrometry
  Journal title is: Journal of mass spectrometry
  Title abbreviation is: J Mass Spectrom


Example 4:

  Journal title is: Diabetes self-management
  Title abbreviation is: Diabetes Self Manag (both Self and Management could stand alone)
  Journal title is: Journal of pre-hospital care
  Journal abbreviation: J Prehospital Care (Pre cannot stand alone)


Example 5:

  Prior to March 2007: Forschungstechnologie was abbreviated as Forschungstechnol
  After March 2007: Forschungstechnologie is abbreviated as Forschtechnol


Example 6:

  Journal title is: Pediatrics
  There are already several journals with that title in the database, so the city of publication of the first issue cataloged, Chicago, is added to the title abbreviation. Later the city of publication changes to Philadelphia, but the title abbreviation remains as initially established.
  Title abbreviation is: Pediatrics (Chic)
  [Note that as a single word title, Pediatrics is not abbreviated]


Example 7:

  Journal title is: Revista brasileira de parasitologia veterinária also presented in English as Brazilian journal of veterinary parasitology
  Title abbreviation is: Rev Bras Parasitol Vet
  Later issues have the English title presented first, followed by the Portuguese title. The title abbreviation remains as initially established.


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Last Reviewed: April 24, 2019