What Are Abbreviations?
'Abbreviation' comes from the verb 'abbreviate' which means 'to shorten.' Abbreviations are shortened forms of words or phrases that are used to represent the full form of a word or phrase more easily or quickly.
Abbreviations can be used to save time and space when writing or reading something. They may be used to avoid unnecessary repetition of long words and phrases. For example:
Abbreviations can be categorized based on the way they are written. Here is the list of all types of abbreviations:
- Syllabic abbreviations
Abbreviations that are made of the initial letters of the words of a phrase or a long word and are pronounced as a word, are called acronyms. They do not have a full stop (period). Here are a few examples:
An initialism consists of the first letters of a group of words, pronounced individually, not as a word. Here are some examples:
Here, this is an initialism from a Latin phrase (curriculum vitae), which means 'course of life'.
It is important to know that abbreviations can overlap. For example, some people may pronounce
Contractions are abbreviations in which we omit letters from the middle of a word. We always pronounce contractions as the original word. Contractions that contain an apostrophe are not usually categorized as abbreviations. Take a look at some examples:
Shortening happens when we abbreviate a word by keeping the first few letters or the first syllable. The pronunciation of the shortened form is the same as the original word. We have two different types of shortening:
- Short forms that are treated as words : This type of shortening can be used both in writing and speaking.
- Short forms that are not treated as words: This type is only used in writing. But when we say or read them, we use the full form of the word.
In this example, we write 'Feb' but we say February.
Here, It is translated from Latin and it means "and the rest".
Here, It is translated from Latin which means "and others".
5. Syllabic Abbreviations
A syllabic abbreviation is an abbreviation formed from the initial syllables of multiple words and is pronounced as a word. Here are some examples:
The months and days of the week should only be shortened when they are part of a full date or when space is limited. For example:
Sat. Dec. 11, 1999
Abbreviation is one of the word formation processes in English. As with any other existing words, abbreviations can have different parts of speech. So understanding this notion will help us understand abbreviations better. All of them are mentioned below with examples:
As you can see, 'radar' (an acronym) was used so widely that it became a common noun.
Here, 'NATO' (an acronym) is a proper noun.
Do you have all those pictures on your
As you can see, The part of speech of 'DVD' (an initialism) is noun which is commonly used.
As you can see, US (an initialism) is modifying the noun ' population'. Therefore, it is a noun modifier.
Here, 'NASA' is a noun modifier.
Can you send me the
- As an adverb: Some abbreviations may function as adverbs (mostly Latin ones). To recognize them, you must pay attention to their original phrase.
The exams' results are expected around 1
Here, 'p.m.' (an initialism) means 'after midday' which is translated from Latin 'post meridiem'.
They were asked to describe their feelings (
Here, 'i.e.' (an initialism) means 'that is' which is translated from Latin 'id est'.
All students should bring paper, pencils, scissors,
- As a preposition: There are a few of abbreviations (mostly Latin) which function as prepositions.
Tomorrow's game is France
Here, 'vs.' is a Latin abbreviation (versus) that means 'against'.
Abbreviations can be used without knowing that they have component meanings. Abbreviations such as
She usually forgets her PIN number when she goes to the ATM machine.
The plural form of an abbreviation is made by adding '-s'. Do not use an apostrophe (-'s). If you use -'s the reader will not know if it is for pluralization or possession. This rule applies to abbreviations with or without periods. Here are some examples:
There will be many more
As you can see, we cannot put a period after '-s'.
There are at least two
While it is generally recommended to avoid using apostrophes to form plurals, in some cases it may be necessary to help the reader distinguish between the singular and plural forms of the abbreviation. For example:
The coastguard did not receive any
Remember that SI units do not have separate plural forms. Therefore, do not add '-s' at the end of these units. For example:
Some rules must be observed when capitalizing abbreviations that mostly depend on your style of writing. To understand them in detail, take a look at the list below:
- When the full form is in capital letters (proper nouns), the abbreviation is written in also capital letters:
In some styles of writing acronyms, you can capitalize only the first letter 'Unesco'.
As you can see, when the full form is not a proper noun, it would be a matter of choice and both forms are acceptable.
- All acronyms that become words of their own right are written in lowercase:
- Social or official contractions and contractions that are proper nouns start with a capital letter. Other contractions are written in lowercase:
- Generally, Latin abbreviations are written in lowercase:
Here, we do not place a period after 'et'.
- Abbreviations of SI units are usually lowercased unless named after people:
As you can see, the letter is capital because it was named after 'William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin'.
Do not capitalize the full form of an abbreviation unless it is a proper noun. For example:
UFO – unidentified flying object
Unidentified Flying Object
There are no strict rules on where to use periods. It depends on the style of writing you have chosen. However, some of these rules are so common that they usually remain unchanged. Take a look at the list below and the examples:
- Generally, we do not use periods in acronyms or other abbreviations with more than one capital letter:
- Periods are always used in abbreviations with lowercased letters (specifically Latin abbreviations):
- Periods are generally used when initializing people's name:
Here, if you want to write 'JFK', then you are not allowed to use periods.
- Periods are not used when abbreviating SI units:
- Use a period after contractions or other short forms:
Social titles and professional titles are commonly abbreviated in English. In American English title abbreviations are always followed by a period, however, in British English they are not followed by a period. Here are a few examples.
When US is used as a noun modifier, use periods, but not when it is used as a noun and refers to the country. For example:
The U.S. government has a key role in the negotiations.
The US is one of the most powerful countries in the world.
How To Use Abbreviations in Writing?
We have some rules for using abbreviations in English writing. Take a look at the list below:
- Use abbreviations only if they appear three times or more in your paper.
- Do not use abbreviations in headings, table titles, figure caption and reference list (except for some Latin abbreviations).
- Any phrase that can be abbreviated should first be spelled out in full and then abbreviated in parentheses. After that, only use the abbreviation.
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