Information Services Office   4.6.2012

399

 
Newsletter No. 399 > Style Speaks > Abbreviations

Abbreviations

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With the rapid development in almost every field of human endeavours, new words, phrases and terms proliferate. Many of these tend to elide into abbreviations or what Fowler calls curtailed words. The letters in an abbreviation can be all lower cases, all upper cases, or a combination of the two, with punctuations in between or at the end:

a.m. (for ante meridiem (Latin: before noon))

BBC (for British Broadcasting Corporation)

hi-fi (for high-fidelity)

NATO (for North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

dept (for department)

Prof. (for Professor)

The Oxford Dictionary of Abbreviations (2nd Ed.) distinguishes between initialisms and acronyms. The former are formed by the initial letters of the comprising words and pronounced as a series of the letters. The latter are identically formed but pronounced as if they are single words.

Thus, HIV is an initialism, whereas AIDS is an acronym.

Another species is shortenings, which are words spelled out in part, such as Gen. Ed. (for General Education) and recd (for received). A shortening is usually followed by a full-stop unless the last letter of the shortening is also the last letter of the word, as in dept (for department) and recd (for received).

Editor

www.iso.cuhk.edu.hk/english/features/style-speaks/

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