Have you ever been puzzled by the mysterious indication DPO or Eng. on your acquaintance business card? Were you ever invited to the BBQ with OJ, and then have been knocked down by B.Y.O.B.? If so, plunge into the text that unfolds below. We shall talk about all these mysterious things called abbreviations, the ways to discern them (yes, there is more than one type of them!) and their proper usage in writing. By the way, the affordable language editing of the top quality is always there to help in solving all your writing problems. Enjoy!
Those tricky simple things – abbreviations. Why do we use them so often?
First of all, let us define the term. A common definition of the term stands for the physical reduction of a word or a word-combination, where the shortened form is created by the letters that make the components of that word or phrase. For example, asap goes for as soon as possible, Dr. for doctor, Ln for Lane. The very form of the word presumes such a meaning, as brevis is a Latin analogue for short. It is curious, though, that the more academic and lengthy term of abbreviation has beaten more colloquial and shorter shortage. Meanwhile, the adoption of such a name contradicts its essence. Why? Let us see.
The main function of the abbreviation is to be discernable, to enable the immediate recognizing of the full word or phrase hidden behind it. When we encounter the shortened Prof. in the text body, our mind immediately lets afloat the well-known word professor. Just pronouncing BBQ [bi:bi:’kju:], we already savor the taste of the roasted barbeque.
So, the abbreviations are like the screen hiding the more spacious meaning behind their seemingly narrow strip of material. Yet when we peer behind it, we can see the vast valleys of sense unfolding before our eyes. It is curious, indeed, how such a short word as USA can relay so many associations (Statue of Liberty, White House, Western world), emotions, cultural connotations. Meanwhile, primarily, it has been just a substituting form for the word-combination the United States of America. Yet gradually, becoming a frequent actor in the speech, it acquired all the connotations inherent to the basic phrase, and even acquired its own ones, thus enriching the whole concept.
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But why are abbreviations so popular? Indeed, should one fitting abbreviation appear, many people start to use it willingly instead of the whole word or phrase? Meanwhile, the reverse process can be related only to archaisms – words, the meaning of which we no longer understand due to their extinction from the language usage. That’s why we are bound to pronounce and write them in full in order to ascertain their recognition by our interlocutors. Such are fl. – from Latin floruit, indicating the period of the fruitful activity of some person; also REG that goes for Regina (queen). Let’s try to make heads and tails in this issue and define the basic functions of the abbreviations. So, these cut forms of the words do the following:
The last paragraph gives us the possibility to discern another important property of the abbreviations – their popularity and the area of functioning. By this criterion, the abbreviations can be divided into:
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We have outlined the general features and properties of the abbreviations as a language phenomenon. Now let us get deeper and more specifically into the latter and define its main types, as well as specifically language functions.
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CEO against the Asst. Abbreviations types. Their grammar function
The principal features and functions of the abbreviations enable to make a distinctive line within the mass of them. This line divides two large groups: abbreviations themselves and acronyms. Let us have a closer look at each of them.
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The abbreviations usually form due to the frequent usage of the full words that they indicate, in writing or in speech. Throughout the centuries, these words of the frequent usage have acquired their constant abbreviations. They can be thematically divided into the following groups, also showing what kind and category of words has been often used in the writing in the past times:
Titles. While at present the highly developed and complicated title’ system has rather lost its importance marked by the past time, some of the titles are still used in speech and in writing. So are their abbreviations. Imagine how much space, time and effort we save each time when we write Dear Mr. Jones instead of Dear Mister Jones, or Dr. Shelly instead of Doctor Shelly. Most of the titles have become extinct with the aristocracy cancelling in the many countries of the world. For example, such ones as Emp. (Emperor), J.D. (Doctor of Law) and others. However, in the modern world we still use the polite addressing, when approaching some person, whether orally or in writing: Mrs. Edwards, Prof. Cranbers, Rev. Sh. Almond. Thus, abbreviating them, we save our own and the reader’s time, as well as ink and paper, if we write by hand.
Dates. Another good point for saving resources of all kinds is the abbreviation of dates. The date appears on every message we send through messengers or social networks. It goes with every e-mail, every letter, every media edition. Thus, abbreviating dates we save a lot of resources, paper first of all. Thus saving the planet a little bit. The following categories of dates are usually abbreviated: months (Oct., Jan., Aug.), collective indication of decades (60s, 1980s), consecutive numbers (4th, 22nd), the digital writing of the date (September fourth, 2017 - 9/4/2017). Also the indications of the time before and after Christ are abbreviated in two ways: with Latin name (AD – Anno Domini) and English name (BC – Before Christ). There are also some modern abbreviations for the time indications. For instance, OUT – Once upon a time (though this last one is a representative of another type of abbreviations – the acronyms).In order to use the titles correctly in your paper, be it the simple essay or even the dissertation, check our dissertation proofreading service for students. It will help you to verify the different aspects of the grammar, punctuation and spelling as well.
Street signs. This group includes abbreviations of the geographic locations (Ave. – avenue, Blvd. – boulevard, Mun. – Municipal), and also some locally accepted acronyms (OH – overhead, OC – over crossing). Shortening these indications in the widely recognizable way saves the place on the sign and makes its visibility and readability much higher. That is, in turn, quitter important for the on road safety.
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Postal codes and airports indications. The next valuable acquisition in the abbreviations’ area is the shortening of the postal code. Though today most of the correspondence is performed by electronic means, still the parcels and important letters are sent by the regular mail. Thus, abbreviating the codes in the commonly accepted way is a great solution for the time and effort economy. Shortened are the names of the counties and some cities in UK (LON – London, LPOOL - Liverpool), another great opportunity for introducing economy on time and effort is shortening the names of the US states (CA – California, TX - Texas).
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Measurement indications. The indications of different types of measurement are used from the ancient times. To relay some exact knowledge or describe some object, we need to say what distance (in. – inch, m. – meter), weight (t – ton, lb. – pound), volume (gal. – gallon, pt. – pint), quantity (doz. – dozen, tbsp. - tablespoon), speed (mph – miles per hour, rpm – revolutions per minute), temperature (C – Celsius, F - Fahrenheit) and other properties can be assigned to it. These words have become the frequent ones in speech and writing with the boost of trading activities all over the world. They are also important for the charts’ composition (indicating distance and scope), knowledge transmission (mathematics, physics, chemistry, recipes), education and many other spheres. The development of the banking system has enhanced significantly the system of the money currency nominations. Today not only stockbrokers, but the people far from finance sphere know the indications for Euro (EUR), Mexican peso (MXN), Russian ruble (RUB) and many others. This information is essential for the travelers and tourists as well.
Latin abbreviations. The English language, like many other languages of European and American continent, has its origin in Latin. Throughout the Medieval and Renaissance times Latin, though extinct from the colloquial speech, had been the language of science and that of academic writing. The basics of the modern Western system of knowledge lay in the works of the prominent ancient Greek and Latin authors, such as Aristotle, Hippocrates, Pythagoras, Gaius Sulpicus Gallus and many others. Hence, most of the terms used in the modern academic texts and operated by science, either have the Latin roots (the very word term, line, nature, reaction and so on), or are the direct descendants from Latin (agenda, flux, perturb). It is not surprising, then, that though the language of the modern global science is English, a profound quantity of its operative terms are either Latin, or have the Latin roots. Obviously, their abbreviations are also Latin ones. It mostly concerns the medicine (abdom. – abdomen, cap. – capit (head)), chemistry (HG – hydrargyrum (mercury), alb. - white), philosophy (circ. – circum (around), alt. ego – alter ego (second self)), but also the other areas of knowledge. The very way of marking the sources and the types of remarks (et al. – et alii (and others), etc. – et cetera (and similar, and other), NB – nota bene (remember, mark well)) also comes from Latin.
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Common abbreviations. Besides the above listed ones, there are also abbreviations that formed in response to the linguistic needs of the epoch. The language is the dynamic and developing essence, and the way of its use is much determined by the requirements of people for their education, business activities, social communication and so on. Thus, with the pace of time, new abbreviations have formed, that cannot be thematically joined into some particular group yet are quite popular and marked by the frequent use. They mostly concern the colloquial style in writing. These are such well-known shortenings as Howdy (How do you do), 2moro (tomorrow), OK (okay), gal (girl), cop (copper (police officer)) and others. Though some of them may be attributed to sheer slang, their frequent use and global acknowledgement allow relating them to the widely common abbreviations.
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Summing up, there are two types of the abbreviations that differ by the way of their creation and the variability of it. However, both types are inherent to the same grammar and punctuation specifics that, apart from their functions in language and speech, allows joining them into the single language phenomenon.
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Abbreviations, in general, have the following grammar characteristics:
1. They are nouns. Indeed, be it the UK (United Kingdom), Cap. (capitulus) or LuvU (love you), all these words act as grammar nouns. They’ve got the syntactic functions of that part of speech, and represent it best for they are the names in their essence. As the nouns, they also possess all grammar attributes of that lexical category.
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2. They can be defined by articles. The use and choice of the articles depend on the exact context in the sentence. If an abbreviation is used as a name of a single thing, it can go without article: NASA has issued a new report on the space navigation. However, if the basic word in the acronym is used in plural, the definite article can be used. In some cases, the acronym is not used in another way, but with the definite article: The ship arrived in the USA on Sept. 12th. If the abbreviation indicates the common noun, it can be used with both the definite and indefinite articles: A prog is an abbreviation for “program”. The prog is characterized by several criteria.
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3. They can be supported by the attributive adjectives: The worldwide UNESCO is an organization supporting dev’t [development] in the humanistic spheres.
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4. They have a gender. The gender is defined by the basic word in the acronym (OUN – Organization of United Nations, neuter gender), or by the full word of abbreviation (missus – feminine gender). The gender is also indicated by the possessive pronouns: UK has stated its opinion on the war in Syria. My gf had his dinner at 7 pm every day.
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5. They have a number. The acronyms usually go as singular number nouns, however, if they are used as common nouns, they can also act as plurals: I’m tired of all those LASERs and their blinking in the night. The abbreviations can be used both in singular and in plural, depending on the properties of the basic nouns in them: My bar [barrister] will contact your bars regarding these legal matters.
6. They can form possessive forms. The possessive of the abbreviations is indicated in the same way as it goes with the noun: by adding the apostrophe and s: The combat’s division has arrived late. The last CIA’s investigation delivered unexpected results.
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Thus, representing sometimes a line of words relating to different parts of speech (BYOB – bring your own bottle, ISO – the Organization for settlement and description of International Standards), the abbreviations, whatever type they belong to, always act as nouns and maintain the nouns’ grammar and syntactic functions. The abbreviations are divided into two major groups differing by the way of their creation, while the function and the area of use of abbreviations and acronyms coincide for most part. There can be defined the thematic groups inside these two ones, that correspond to a certain area of human knowledge and communication.
Prof. or Professor? Where the abbreviations to be used and how
Now that we got settled as to the origin and the character of abbreviations, let us talk of their implementation in speech and writing – i.e., the way they are used in the modern English language. We shall talk about both the writing and pronouncing the abbreviations, and discuss the different approaches to this area.
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While it seems that there is nothing simpler than writing an abbreviation – after all, that is their function, to make our writing less effort-consuming and more effective – there still can be found several issues to discuss. For the most part, they do not concern the inscription of the word itself – this one shouldn’t make a problem if you know how the initial word is spelled. Some acronyms may make the difference (for example, radar – radio detecting and ranging or AFN – afghan Afghani (currency of Afghanistan)), yet they are quite scarce and usually relate to the narrow knowledge areas.
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However, there is still the point in writing down any abbreviation – the punctuation. Should the abbreviations be concluded with a period or without it? Is there a need for the spacing? What about the usage in the end of sentence? This and other issues are discussed here below. Let’s see!
The punctuation issues that arise when we deal with the abbreviations can be attributed to two major groups: usage of period and spacing. Let us have a closer look at both:
1. Spacing. This is the simplest issue, though many beginners in English often address it to their teachers, and still more often – to the Web search. Should there be a space between the letters in abbreviations and acronyms? The answer is – No for both groups. Though it is quite grounded and understood for the abbreviations (it would be unclear why a space should appear in the body of an integral word), the situation asks for some explanation with regard to acronyms. Indeed, if we unfold an acronym, we shall receive a phrase – technically, it will be a line of words with the spaces between them. Not Applicable is the original line, and N/A is the acronym. SFLR goes as an acronym for Sorry for the late reply. So, why not spacing the letters in acronym to show its abbreviated character? We shall find the answer if recollect the grammar and syntactic function of any abbreviation – it is the noun that behaves as a single word, no matter how many components it consists of, as well as the independent character of these components. So, if you intend to write an abbreviation of any kind, do not allow any spacing inside the word.
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2. Period usage. The need for period at the end or inside the abbreviations is partly determined by the style version of the English language chosen for writing. Let us consider both and see their influence on the abbreviations’ inscription:
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Another important remark on the usage of period at the end of abbreviations of any type, be it the British or American style that the author had chosen: never make it a double period. Whatever the style, if the abbreviation is the last word in the sentence, there should be only one period – and let others guess, whether it is a period for the abbreviation, or for the end of sentence.
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Now that we are straight with the way of writing the abbreviations, it is time to discuss another important issue about them – the spelling.
First of all, there is no fixed rule on the way of spelling abbreviations. Analyzing the spelling of abbreviations and acronyms of different thematic groups, one can find no constant rule for their pronunciation. The type of spelling is usually set by the usage and is an accustomed knowledge. However, there can be defined three ways of spelling the abbreviations. The classification below is based solely on the type of spelling, without any reference to the pattern rule of usage.
1). Spelling as a word. The abbreviation or acronym is considered as a separate word and is spelled according to the spelling rules of the English language. This concerns not only basic abbreviations (howdy, lab, varsity), but the acronyms as well. The NASA is spelled as [‘næs.ə], RADAR as [‘reidɑ:r] and UNESCO as [ju’nes.kəv]. When spelling such words, the general rules of transcription and pronunciation in the English language are to be applied.
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2). Spelling as the original word. Some abbreviations and acronyms are always spelled in full, though may be written in shortened form. It concerns titles (Mme. Is to be spelled [‘mædəm] and St. as [seint]), measurement indications (kg stands for [‘kiləgræm] and ft. for [fi:t]), street signs and locations (Ave. is to be pronounced [‘ævənu:] and Blvd. [‘bvləvɑ:rd]), and other abbreviations. This is sometimes valid for the acronyms also, though it mostly depends on the reader / speaker’s choice: the USA can be read as the United States of America and asap as as soon as possible.
3). Spelling by the letters. This type of spelling is attributed to acronyms only. Some of them are spelled by the pronunciation of the letters that constitute them. This may vary, though, depending on the style version of the English language. For example, the correct spelling of the acronym ETA in the American English will be [,i:ti’ei], while the British version spells it as a word [‘i:tə]. BB (bread-and-butter) is usually spelled [,bi’bi], CIA as [siai’ei].
While determining the way of writing and spelling of the abbreviations, another important issue is to be dealt with. It is about where and how actually use the abbreviations, in what situations they are quite welcome, and what speech or writing patterns prohibit their use. Let us shed some light on this issue as well.
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Abbreviations have many functions and are quite frequent in the modern English language, both written and oral. They are the kind of “helpers” in speech and writing, allowing to save time, effort and space for both the speaker and listener. From grammar and syntactic point of view, they act as nouns, though the words assembling their integral meaning can relate to different grammar categories. From the formal and structural point of view, they can be divided into two major groups of basic abbreviations and acronyms. Abbreviations, though frequently used and having a significant history of acting in the language, do not have a fixed pattern of usage, regarding the conditions of usage, spelling and punctuation. In most of the cases, the accustomed patterns must be followed for the correct usage.
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