We abbreviate things to speed our ability to communicate. This has been prevalent in human written language since 1,000 BC with the Greek alphabet. If you think back to Ancient Egypt drawings have been used for similar purposes. Today young people have reverted to doing the same with emojis. Some youngsters pride themselves on never using a single letter in their texts to their friends. Way to think like an Egyptian guys! We have shortened surnames (Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc.) in this way too. Surnames are also one of the most commonly used abbreviations. Map locations and weather charts are filled with them too. Acronyms have been front and center for the last twenty years. Acronyms are formed by associating a word with each letter in the acronym itself. You might have come across the acronyms: YOLO (You only live once) or FOMO (fear of missing out). Teach your students common abbreviations with this collection of worksheets, which cover addresses, state names, recipes, everyday expressions, formal forms of address and professional titles, and more. Abbreviations help streamline information for both writers and readers, but you must use them correctly in order to keep your writing clear. For example, many writers think the abbreviations "i.e." and "e.g." are interchangeable, when they mean different things and have very specific uses.
Fun Fact: The ampersand (&) was originally designed by combining the letters "E," and "t," and was used in "&c" as an abbreviation for the Latin "et cetera" (and the rest). Today the ampersand represents the word "and". There are thousands of big business brands that incorporate the use of the ampersand in their name. Where would Ben & Jerry be without it?
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Some of the most common abbreviations are derived from Latin words and phrases.
Why are Abbreviations Used?
Abbreviations help save space in a text by shortening the words. This helps avoid reading distractions. For example, using an abbreviation in place of a long phrase that has to be repeated makes the sentence easy to read and decipher.
Points to Consider While Using Them
Some abbreviations are categorized as informal, so using them in academic writings or formal texts will be frowned upon. In those cases, it would actually be beneficial to spell out the words. Some people are not aware of what the abbreviation is supposed to stand for. That’s why when you first use it in the text, be sure to explain it if the abbreviation is not a commonly used one.
How Are They Used?
Abbreviations are used in various forms and formats. Some of them are explained below:
Acronyms and Initialisms
When you combine the beginning letters of each word of a name, phrase, or sentence, they are called acronyms and initialisms. Written typically in capital letters, acronyms are pronounced as a single word, while initialisms are read and spoken as a series of letters.
NASA is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration and is pronounced as a whole word. NFL, however, is short for National Football League (example of initialism) and is pronounced as en-eff-ell.
Some acronyms have become so commonly used that they have been adopted as the actual word instead of the word or phrase it originated from. An accurate example would be the word scuba, which very few people seem to remember is an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.
Similarly, light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation was made into the acronym laser. This acronym is what we use in our conversations and texts.
The internet vocabulary is full of initialisms. Consider, IDK, LOL, BRB, WYD, TTYL. These are the initialisms for I don’t know, Laugh out loud, Be right back, What are you doing, etc. Using these in place of actual words shortens typing time in online chatting.
You cannot use these in conversation with your professor, boss, or other seniors or colleagues while writing an email to them or having an online conversation where your opinion needs to be taken seriously.
Titles and the names of academic degrees are almost always abbreviated and these abbreviations are followed by a period in U.S. English. In British English, however, the period is skipped.
The most commonly used titles are:
- Ms. = (pronounced as "miss" or "miz") - Mr. = Mister - Mrs. = Mistress (pronounced as "missus") - Dr. = Doctor - Sr. = Senior - Jr. = Junior
For Academic Degrees
Some of the most used academic degree abbreviations include:
- B.A. = Bachelor of Arts - B.S. = Bachelor of Science - M.A. = Master of Arts - M.S. = Master of Science - M.B.A. = Master of Business Administration - Ph.D. = Doctor of Philosophy
There are a few Latin abbreviations so commonly used in English writing that people have forgotten their actual origin.
e.g.: Originally from exempli gratia, means "for example." We use e.g. to provide specific examples of a generalization.
i.e.: Originally from id est, i.e. means "that is." We use i.e. to provide specific information about the thing under discussion.
etc.: Originally from et cetera, etc means "and so forth." We use it while providing an incomplete list of details.
Other Common Uses
Times and Dates
- a.m. (ante meridiem) = before noon - p.m. (post meridiem) = after noon - Months of the year: Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., May, Jun., Jul., Aug., Sep., Oct., Nov., Dec. - Days of the week: Mon., Tues., Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat,. Sun.
- U.S.A. (United States of America) - U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates) - U.K. (United Kingdom) - E.U. (European Union)
Units of Measurement
- in. (inches) - ft. (feet) - lbs. (pounds) - m. (meters) - cm. (centimeters) - mm. (millimeters) - g. (gram) - mg. (milligram) - kg. (kilogram)