An abbreviation is the short form of shortened form of any lengthy word or phrase. It is formed from a group of letters taken from the word or phrase. In fact, the word abbreviation can be denoted by different abbreviations such as abbr., abbrv., or abbrev. It is applied in nearly all discipline and area of life. Abbreviations can be formed from names, conversations. It is present in all spheres of life such as medicine, military, science, relations, religions, etc. It is also used in different languages, certain business setting. However, abbreviations are used in non-standard or informal context. This signifies that every dictionary may not have the same abbreviation for the same word. In certain cases, some words are not defined at all, and the words are recognized as real words. Therefore, it is commonly advised to not use abbreviations in formal settings such as writing assignments for colleges and schools.

Commonly used abbreviations in everyday conversation

  • R.S.V.P- This is an abbreviation or acronym for French phrase “Répondez s’il vous plait” that means “respond if you please.” This phrase is commonly used on special events and parties. It is intended to reply to the invitations with a “yes, we will attend,” or “no, we will not.”
  • A.S.A.P- This means as soon as possible. The phrase conveys the meaning that a response to a request is required as soon as possible.
  • ATM – Automated Teller Machine
  • AM – Ante Meridiem
  • E.T.A- It is the shortened form of “estimated time of arrival,” and it is used for an estimated or assumed the time of when an individual is expected to arrive while traveling.
  • P.S- Post Script. This is used at the end of the note to include something as an afterthought that someone wants to include in the letter.
  • D.I.Y. – do it yourself that convey the meaning that creating something all by yourself. It is generally used in reference to crafts and home repairs when someone can create something of their own.
  • 24/7 – 24 Hours a Day, 
  • 7 Days a Week,
  • ID – Identification
  • IQ – Intelligence Quotient
  • PIN – Personal Identification Number
  • PM – Post Meridiem
  • MO – Modus Operandi
  • MS – Manuscript
  • PR – Public Relations
  • Q&A – Question and Answer
  • SOP – Standard Operating Procedure

Different Types of Abbreviations

There are many different types and subsets of abbreviations. They are

Acronyms

 They are the type of abbreviation that is usually formed by taking the first letters of the words of a phrase or it is formed by the first parts of the phrase. Acronyms are pronounced in the form of a word. However, VAT can be pronounced as vat, or it can be considered as an initialism. In case of initialism VAT is pronounced separately as “v,” “a,” “t.”  For example:

  • Gif- graphics interchange format
  • ASAP- as soon as possible ((pronounced ay-sap)
  • Radar- radio detection and ranging
  • OPEC – Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries
  • Zip- zone improvement plan
  • NASA – National Aeronautical and Space Administration
  • NATO – North American Treaty Organisation
  • SIM – subscriber identification module (card for cell phone) VAT – value added tax
  • PIN – personal identification number (code for bank card) RAM – random access memory (computer memory)

Rules for Capital Letters in case of Acronyms-

If in the actual word the first letters are capital then the abbreviation is always written in capital letters. For example

  • NATO- North American Treaty Organisation
  • NATO is always written in capital letters.
  • nato (Incorrect)

But there are other acronyms that can be written in the capital as well as small letters depending on the style choice. Both the forms are acceptable. For example

  • PIN (Correct)
  • Pin (Correct)

Rules for full stops in case of acronyms

Full stops are not used in case of acronym after every letter. This is because we consider acronyms as a single word and pronounce accordingly, so we avoid full stops in the middle of the words. For example:

The PIN of any credit card is a secret number and cannot be shared with everyone. (Correct)

The P.I.N of any credit card is a secret number and cannot be shared with everyone. (Incorrect)

Initialisms

These types of abbreviations are spelled each letter separately one at a time. They are formed by taking some of the letters in the word or phrase. Initialisms are commonly used in text messaging.

  • BTW – by the way
  • FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • WWW – world wide web
  • CD – compact disc
  • CEO – Chief Executive Officer
  • TV –television
  • UFO – unidentified flying object
  • USA – United States of America

e.g.-for example

  • FAQ – frequently asked questions
  • VAT – value added tax
  • PLC – public limited company

Rules for Capital Letters in case of Initialism

This is similar to acronyms. If in the actual full form word the first letters are capital then the abbreviation is always written with capital letters. For example

Federal Bureau of Investigation is written as FBI

Therefore, FBI (Correct), fbi (Incorrect).

However, there are abbreviations that can be written in the capital as well as small letters. Such as the word FAQ. The full form of FAQ (frequently asked questions) is not written in capital letters so it can be either written as FAQ or faq. Both the forms are acceptable and correct.

Rules for Full Stops in case of Initialisms

This rule is different in the case of British English and American English.

In British English full stops is not used in between each letter but in American English the full stops based on the question of style. However, In American English using full stops between letter in the case of initialisms is common.

British English

  • FBI (Correct)
  • F.B.I (Incorrect)

American English

  • FBI (Correct)
  • F.B.I (Correct)

Contractions

In this type of abbreviation, letters are deleted from the middle of the words. Full Stop is generally avoided at the end of the contraction. Moreover, capital letter is used only when the word begins with a capital letter. There are generally two types of Contractions.

Type I (In this case letters are omitted from one word)

  • Doctor- Dr
  • government- govt
  • Saint- St
  • Mister-Mr

Type II (In this case letters are omitted from more than one word. Apostrophe is used to represent the removed letters)

  • he is- he’s
  • they would- they’d

Shortenings

These are the type of abbreviations in which the starting or the ending of any particular word has been removed.  Shortenings are further subdivided into two types

Type I Shortening (These types of words are considered as real words and not abbreviations. Also they are pronounced as one word). For example:

flu- influenza (disease)

ad- advertisement

rhino- rhinoceros (animal)

app- application (type of software)

blog- weblog

Rules for Capital Letters in Type I shortening

The first letter is written as capital letter if the actual complete word starts with a capital letter

Rules for Full Stops in Type I shortening

A full stop is not used after type 1 shortening.

Type 2 shortening

The second type of shortening is type 2 shortening. In this type, the shortened words are not considered as real words. They are only used in writing, but they are always spelled in the full form. For example

Jan. – January

Fri. – Friday

etc.-  et cetera (It is a Latin term for “and the rest”)

For example, when we write a sentence we write it as “Please send me the accounts for the month of Dec, ” but we spell it as “Please send me the account for the month of December.”

Rules for capital letters in the case of Type II shortening

The first letter of a type 2 shortening is written in the capital letter only if the actual word starts with a capital letter.

Rules for full stops in the case of Type II shortening

In this case, there is an option to use full stops at the end of the abbreviated word. For example

February can be either written as Feb. or Feb

Other types of Abbreviations

Truncation- This type of abbreviation is formed by taking only the first part of the word. This type of abbreviation is generally used for denoting proper titles such as months, years, weekdays, etc. For example Mon., Sat., Oct., Feb., Dec., etc.

Clipped- It is similar to truncation but in this type of abbreviation middle or end part of the word is used. For example phone for the word telephone, fridge for the word refrigerator, etc.

Aphesis- In this type of abbreviation, the unstressed vowel is omitted at the start of the word. This is often used in normal conversations. For example ‘cause instead of because.

Portmanteau- The combination of two or more words together is called portmanteau. For example spork (spoon and fork), brunch- (breakfast and lunch), etc.