I don't think the ATF doing this is anything new at all.
ATF has said for decades that "commonly used" abbreviations are acceptable. They even use an example on Question 20a of the 4473.
I remember years ago all the gun shops around here were real sticklers about not using any abbreviations. they would not even let you use AVE for Avenue, or CO for Colorado. The BATF generally had a bad rap around here as I remember, I think they just didn't want to give them any excuses.
Specifically, I remember this from the Clinton era, the same era that the NICS mysteriously (wink) went down on Mothers Day during the "Million Mom March".