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French typography: abbreviations

To write French-language abbreviations correctly, follow the guidelines below.


Use upper-case letters; do not use periods:

  • OTAN (Organisation du Traité de l’Atlantique Nord) [in English, NATO]
  • SEE (Société pour l’expansion des exportations) [in English, Export Development Corporation]


Do not retain the accent on initial letters:

  • CEE (Communauté économique européenne)


The gender of an acronym is normally that of the initial noun:

  • le BIT (le Bureau international du travail)

But acronyms from another language take the gender of the French equivalent of the generic noun:

  • le GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) [Agreement = accord (m.)]
  • la BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) [Corporation = société (f.)]


Use a period with the abbreviations for Monsieur and Messieurs, but not with those for Madame and Mesdames:

  • M. Ladouceur
  • MM. Jalbert et Roussel


  • Mme Fortier
  • Mmes Joanisse et René

However, when inserting the abbreviations Mme and Mmes into English text, add a period:

  • Mmes. Sauvé and Legros have yet to express their opinion.

(Note that the French title Madame may refer to unmarried as well as married women.)

Messrs. is the English equivalent of MM.

Messrs. Jalbert and Roussel