The purpose of all language is communication. For one idea to be transferred from one person and understood by another. While vocal speech using full sentences is the most popular form of communication, it isn’t the only way that we communicate. The English language has over 600,000 words, though many of these words are not used in regular communication.
As the English language has developed, we have created faster and more concise ways to communicate and get to the point quickly. English abbreviations are the result of that and are the result of shortened English words and phrases. There are 2 kinds of English Abbreviation used when shortening words and sentences.
The Acronym which is an abbreviation when shortened that is read as a word. For example, UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
Initialism is an abbreviation that is spelled out when shortened, like the letters of the alphabet. For example, F.B.I (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
As you can see from the length of the original names, Abbreviation is very useful. This contraction helps us remember long difficult texts and even when shortened, abridged words do not lose their meaning. So although they are often abstract, the abridged one word abbreviations are often preferred.
Imagine how much time you could save by using abbreviations when writing a dissertation about the United States of America (USA), for example?
We have all seen abbreviations in action with our names especially when you have a longer name. You probably find family and friends affectionately calling you by the first letter or just by your initials like TJ or KK. People have an obsession with abbreviating and finding new ways to shorten words sometimes it can be hard to keep up. It’s almost like an abbreviation is a novelty, and the person who uses it feels a sense of pride over having come up with it (even though they are usually not very creative in the slightest!). When I noticed friends trying to shorten my 3 letter name of Ava to ‘Av’ I had to put my foot down otherwise before I know it I would just become known as ‘A’ or perhaps just with symbols.
If you are learning English you will have to learn how to shorten words too. Photo Source: Unsplash
All jokes aside Abbreviations are very useful in everyday life and especially in writing and modern informal communications. Such as emails, texting, online chat and social media. But they are also used in formal settings such as in the office, and you will even find it on official documents such as passports.
As a speaker of English as a second language, it can be hard enough to try to learn the language without having to know these abbreviated words too. But it is advantageous to learn how to abbreviate in English. Let’s take a look at some common abbreviations, how to spell them, what they spell out and which ones can be spoken or pronounced and which should be left to social media like many popular Instagrammers.
Formatting Rules for English Abbreviations
Capitalization: When you are using any kind abbreviation in writing or correspondence you should always use capital letters. This is because readers will read words with lower case letters and may be confused, thinking it is a word. For example U.S (the United States) and us (a pronoun used to refer to the speaker and one or more other people). Often even if you make a mistake, people will be able to understand because of the context, but it is best practice to be clear and not make people guess.
Etiquette: In formal writing when you are using the abbreviation for the first time you should assume it is not understood and add it in parenthesis. For example, if I wanted to write about the European Union (EU), I would introduce it in Parentheses before going on to write EU later on in the text. This is just a courtesy to ensure anyone reading understands what you are writing about. This courtesy is not extended to in formal writing however so if you don’t know you will just have to read this article or ask the writer.
Full Stops: Often well-known acronyms do not have full stops in between each letter. For example, NASA and N.A.S.A are the same things, but NASA is used.
Some Abbreviations are so familiar that only the acronym is used and the original word is actually forgotten. In this case, you never need to write out the full word as the full word would be what is not understood as opposed to the acronym. An example of this is AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Another perfect example of this is the fact that I have just found that out by researching for this article that AIDS and HIV were abbreviated words. If someone said to me I have Human Immunodeficiency Virus, I would probably tell them to take an aspirin but if they say I have HIV, I would understand the situation fully. There are many English abbreviations that are so ingrained in our language that the longer original form of the words have been somewhat decommissioned or no longer used in general communication.
Spelling: the abbreviation should be a shorter version of the actual word and not a completely different word that has nothing to do with the original sentence or word. Creating unrelated words that are not referring to or derived from the source terminology is most like slang and not an English Abbreviation. Randomly doing this will create confusion. There are exceptions to this.
Title Abbreviations Lists
Titles are never written in the long form, and in all cases of formal and informal writing, the abbreviation is used.
The usage of Mr. is short for Mister
Mrs is short for Mistress
Ms is short for Miss
Dr. is short for Doctor
English abbreviations can be creative and funny. Photo Source: Unsplash
AD means Anno Domini used to communicate the year of the lord or after Christ, in written form, this looks like AD375
BC means before Christ, it is written as 1BC
means Circa, this is used to explain around or approximately e.g. she was born C.345BC
State Abbreviations for the USA
There are 50 states in the US a few of their abbreviations which are used regularly are:
NYC means New York
NJ means New Jersey
SC means South Carolina
On legal documentation, it is common practice to cite publications with Legal Abbreviations. While this may not be relevant to your life, it is a good demonstration of how ingrained abbreviations are within the English language.
ART means Article
EE means Employee
ER Means Employer
LLC Means Limited Liability Company
Anyone with children will put their hands up to admit googling ‘why is my child…’ or ‘why won’t my child…’. If you are one of these concerned mums or dads, then you will no doubt have come across websites like Mumsnet or Babycenter. On these sites intended to offer advice to new parents, there is usually a message board whereby frustrated or worried caregivers can vent or ask questions to others in their situations. But, as a new mum or dad, understanding the baby lingo can be a bit of a challenge!
Here are some of the abbreviations/acronyms commonly used in their huge communities (mainly sourced from BabyCenter):
BC = birth control, or before children
BF = breastfeed
BFN = big fat negative (pregnancy test)
BFP = big fat positive (pregnancy test)
BLW = baby-led weaning
BM = breast milk
CD = cycle day
CF = cervical fluid
CIO = cry it out
CM = cervical mucus
CS or C/S = cesarean section
DC = daycare, dear child
DD = dear daughter
DF = dear fiancee
DH = dear husband
DP = dear partner
DS = dear son
DSD = dear stepdaughter
DSS = dear stepson
DW = dear wife
EBF = exclusively breastfeeding
EDD = estimated due date, or expected date of delivery
FF = formula feeding
FTM = first time mom
HPT = home pregnancy test
IVF = in vitro fertilization
L&D = labor and delivery
LO = little one
LP = luteal phase
MC or M/C = miscarriage
ML = maternity leave
MM = mother’s milk
MS = morning sickness
O = ovulation
OH = other half
PG = pregnant, or pregnancy
POAS = pee on a stick (i.e. pregnancy test)
SAHD = stay-at-home dad
SAHM = stay-at-home mom
SAHP = stay-at-home parent
SD = sperm donor
SO = significant other
TMI = too much information
TTC = trying to conceive
US or U/S = ultrasound
VBAC = vaginal birth after cesarean section
So if you are seeking the help of some fellow parents-to-be and see the following, would you have been able to distinguish what was being said before reading the above?
“OH and I are TTC so we took a POAS and got a BFN.”
We didn’t think so!
English Abbreviations of Everyday Life
The months of the year can be written as – Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr… etc.
The days of the week can follow a similar Structure – Mon, Tue, Wed… etc.
UTC is the shortened version of Coordinated Universal Time. In Europe, we are familiar with Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) however there are hundreds of related time zone abbreviations in use.
UK (United Kingdom)
UAE (United Arab Emirates)
EU (European Union)
CZ (Czech Republic)
HK (Hong Kong)
As you can see from the above, not all country abbreviations are as predictable as using the first letters of the country (AU – Australia) or the first letters of each part that makes up the country (HK – Hong Kong). This is because the country codes are universal, so many of them are taken from their own language (i.e. DE – Deutschland rather than GE – Germany).
Airport Codes / Abbreviations
Once again a universal set of codes that have come mainly from abbreviations, airport country codes are commonly used, so much so that the frequent travellers among us probably know a lot of the places they visit for holidays or business by their three-letter code.
As an example, here are the top 10 UK airports and their short codes:
LHR = London Heathrow
LGW = London Gatwick
MAN = Manchester
STN = Stansted
BHX = Birmingham International Airport
GLA = Glasgow International
EDI = Edinburgh
LTN = London Luton
BFS = Aldergrove International Airport, Belfast
BRS = Bristol
In. or ” means Inches
Ibs (Pounds) <this one doesn’t make sense, but sometimes you will find irregular abbreviations. This is not omitted because it’s essential to know that there are a few contractions that won’t correspond with the normal rules.
Abbreviations are very useful in everyday life and especially in writing. Photo Source: Unsplash
DIY means Do It Yourself and commonly refers to improving your home by yourself.
ETA means the Estimated time of arrival and is used on parcels or deliveries
RSVP means Repondez S’il Vous Plait, It is used on invitations and is asking for the person to respond ASAP to inform if they will attend or not.
St. Means Street
Social Media Messaging
Many will be familiar with these Network-Specific Acronyms, which seem to come naturally to us in this modern technological world:
FB = Facebook
IG = Instagram
LI = LinkedIn
YT = YouTube
Also, some abbreviations or acronyms are specific to one or two of the above networks. Although can be used across networks, here are a few that are mainly linked to Twitter:
DM = Direct Message
MT = Modified Tweet
PM = Private message
RT = Retweet
And now for the fun ones!
LOL = Laughing Out Loud
BRB = Be Right Back
CUL = See You Later
NP = No Problem
TY = Thank You
AFAIK = As Far As I Know
AMA = Ask Me Anything
BFF = Best Friends Forever
BTW = By The Way
FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out
FYI = For Your Information
GTG = Got To Go
IDC = I Don’t Care
IDK = I Don’t Know
ILY = I Love You
IMO = In My Opinion
LMAO = Laughing My Ar*e Off
NBD = No Big Deal
OMW = On My Way
ROFL = Rolling On The Floor Laughing
TBH = To Be Honest
TBT = Throw Back Thursday
WTF = What The F*ck
YOLO = You Only Live Once
IIWII = It Is What It Is
Any Love Island fans will appreciate the final entry! Also, it can’t just be me who pictures Peppa Pig every time she sees ROFL?
English Abbreviations in a Professional Context
CV means curriculum vitae, this is your resume that you use to apply for jobs
ASAP is indicating As Soon As Possible
FYI means For Your Information
B2B is Business to Business
B2C is Business To Consumer
CMGR is Community Manager
CPS is Cost Per Click
CPM is Cost Per Thousand
CR is Conversion Rate
KPI is Key Performance Indicator
PV is Pageviews
ROI is Return On Investment
UGC is User Generated Content
TOS is Terms Of Service
T&Cs is Terms And Conditions
Furthermore, there are some terms that are specific to the tech industry and are as follows:
API is Application Programming Interface
ESP is Email Service Provider
HTML is Hyper Text Markup Language
ISP is Internet Service Provider
SEO is Search Engine Optimisation
UI is User Interface
UX is User Experience
The English Learner may be confused with the irregular, abstract and serial abbreviation obsession in the English language. But once you learn the abridged version of the words, you too will find that you slowly become opposed to the usage of the longer length entries. Before long, you will be writing in English, and editing your writing entries including messaging on social media with abbreviations, Just like a local. Ready to start creating your own English Abbreviations from your most common words and English vocabulary? Good luck and CUL
Ava is a dedicated world traveller, motivated to see, explore and experience the world and culture first hand. She has followed her dream of travel to over 80 countries worldwide and also excitedly pursues her other hobbies of yoga, painting, and photography.
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