What is the right way to abbreviate a term in a semi-formal essay in spanish?

The literature that I'm citing specifies the term TCO that means Total cost of ownership, so I want to write in spanish something like:

El costo total de propiedad (CTP o TCO del inglés Total cost of ownership)

but I don't think that's the right way to write it. I have to follow APA style as closely as possible, but APA doesn't specify anything in this matter.

Any help pointing me to the right direction is greatly appreciated!

2 Answers 2


Wikipedia uses CTP for this concept.

In Spanish you can create the abbreviation you see fit, as long as you follow the given rules. Among them:

  • Always end the abbreviation for a word (in which you eliminated either some letters or syllabus) with a period
  • Abbreviations can't appear freely in the text. Title abbreviations appear before the name and you can't write a quantity in letter followed by the abbreviation for the concept (like veinte mts.)
  • The abbreviation must be effective, and eliminate at least two letters of each word either by getting rid of the last letters (never ending in a vowel) or of the middle ones, leaving the most representatives (dpto. for "departamento")

There are other rules, about pluralization and orthography that don't apply to your example.

According to these rules C.T.P. should be a fine abbreviation for Costo Total de la Propiedad (and not CTP, since an abbreviation need to end with the period). I want to remark that, as an example for those rules, you will find that something like "coste, flete y seguro" is abbreviated as "c.f.s.".

About including a foreign terms, if you can, avoid using two different terms in your essay (Spanish and English one). You could use

TCO del inglés Total Cost of Ownership

Spanish has admitted CD (and not C.D.) for compact disc. In this case is not an abbreviation, you are just using the initials to form an acronym (the initials of a foreign term are not changed when the term is absorbed in Spanish).

  • but how would you go about adding PTO as this is an English term or is it better just to omit writing PTO down altogether?
    – ILikeTacos
    Dec 1, 2014 at 21:53
  • @AlanChavez, I edited the answer to include this. I would use TCO for Total cos of ownership. Wy do you have it as PTO? Does that stand for "total cost"?
    – Diego
    Dec 1, 2014 at 22:16
  • It was a silly and careless mistake, thanks for pointing that out.
    – ILikeTacos
    Dec 1, 2014 at 22:33
  • I disagree that CTP is an acronym. An acronym should be pronounceable as a word, and this is not the case. Granted, sometimes the word acronym is used for non-pronounceable abbreviations, but saying that CTP is not an abbreviation is incorrect.
    – Gorpik
    Dec 2, 2014 at 7:41
  • 1
    @Diego the difference is how it is read. Abreviaturas are actually read as the word they represent. So Q.D.E.P. needs periods because it's not said cude(e)pé but que descanse en paz. Likewise for FF.AA. which is only read fuerzas armadas. Contrast with ONU which is generally read as spelled and doesn't get periods, same with PSOE said pesoe. CTP I imagine being read as /θetepé/, so no period. Dec 2, 2014 at 17:55

The DPD actually tackles this subject directly:

Hispanización de las siglas. Siempre que sea posible, se hispanizarán las siglas: OTAN, y no NATO; ONU, y no UNO. Solo en casos de difusión general de la sigla extranjera y dificultad para hispanizarla, o cuando se trate de nombres comerciales, se mantendrá la forma original: Unesco, sigla de -United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization*; CD-ROM, sigla de Compact Disc Read-Only Memory; IBM, sigla de International Business Machines. Tampoco deben hispanizarse las siglas de realidades que se circunscriben a un país extranjero, sin correspondencia en el propio: IRA, sigla de Irish Republic Army; KGB, sigla de Komitet Gosudárstvennoy Bezopásnosti. La primera vez que se emplea una sigla en un texto, y salvo que sea de difusión tan generalizada que se sepa fácilmente interpretable por la inmensa mayoría de los lectores, es conveniente poner a continuación, y entre paréntesis, el nombre completo al que reemplaza y, si es una sigla extranjera, su traducción o equivalencia: DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration, departamento estadounidense de lucha contra las drogas); o bien escribir primero la traducción o equivalencia, poniendo después la sigla entre paréntesis: la Unión Nacional Africana de Zimbabue (ZANU).

Also very commonly seen is the expression "por sus siglas en [idioma]". You could put the two of these together and say something like (since you intend to use the Spanish version more often) the following:

… el coste total de propiedad (CTP, o por sus siglas en inglés, TCO, total cost of ownership) …

If for some reason the Spanish term weren't a literal translation of the foreign term, you could (if you felt it necessary) add in a Spanish translation after the foreign term.

Also, however you do it, do note that nowadays, the recommendation in the DPD is to write acronyms and other initialisms without periods, unless the surrounding text is all caps:

Trabajo en la ONU como embajador.

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