free pages from our English Language software program
Abbreviations – definition
Abbreviations are letters or shortened words which are used instead of the full word.
Abbreviations are used to save space – or to avoid repeating common terms.
They are often used in dictionaries, encyclopedias, and bibliographies.
Some organisations abbreviate their titles to the initial capital letters of their names.
Abbreviations are very useful when taking notes.
Many traditional abbreviations are shortened forms of words from Latin.
NB! Don’t use abbreviations in formal writing. Write out the word(s) in full.
Notice that a full stop is placed after an abbreviation, but not when the full word is used.
Sometimes the full stop may be omitted in order to avoid double punctuation.
Never begin a sentence with an abbreviation. Either spell out the word, or re-arrange the words in the sentence.
Companies and organisations often drop the full stops from their abbreviated titles.
ICI – Imperial Chemicals Industry
BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation
WHO – World Health Organisation
Some abbreviations are spoken as if they were complete words: for instance, NATO (‘NayTow’).
Others are spelled out. For instance VIP [very important person] is usually spoken as three separate letters – “Vee-Eye-Pea”.
Abbreviations are very useful when taking notes, but you should not use them in the main text of any formal writing.
If you wish to use any of these expressions, they should be written out in full. That is, don’t use e.g., but write out for example.
© Roy Johnson 2003