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.
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. 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
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.
UK (United Kingdom)
UAE (United Arab Emirates)
EU (European Union)
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
LOL = Laughing Out Loud
BRB = Be Right Back
CUL = See You Later
NP = No Problem
TY = Thank You
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
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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