Those who write in American English may sometimes wonder when to abbreviate a word as well as how to abbreviate it. This review will help address those questions.
An abbreviation is a shortened or contracted form of a word or a phrase (e.g., Mister to Mr.). If you’re ever in doubt about when and how to abbreviate a word, you can start by consulting a current dictionary or stylebook, as prevailing usage can change.
In the meantime, the following guidelines can be useful in providing direction.
Punctuation for Abbreviations: Names and Titles
Abbreviate names with a single letter followed by a period. If two successive letters are abbreviated, do not include spaces between the periods.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, J.P. Morgan, K.D. Lang
If a person’s full name is abbreviated, use only first letters without periods: JFK (John F. Kennedy), LBJ (Lyndon B. Johnson), MJ (Michael Jordan).
Abbreviate and capitalize junior or senior if it follows an individual’s name. Many stylebooks now also allow for a comma before junior or senior to be omitted.
Ken Griffey Sr., Ken Griffey Jr., John F. Kennedy Jr., Robert Downey Sr.
If someone’s personal or professional title appears before the full name, it is abbreviated. Some common abbreviated titles are:
|Reverend: Rev.||Governor: Gov.||Mister: Mr.||Senator: Sen.|
|Doctor: Dr.||Professor: Prof.||Missus: Mrs.||Representative: Rep.|
Rev. Peter Jones, Prof. Carrie Newsom, Mrs. Janette McCauley, Sen. Ken Hanson
Some stylebooks may advise to not abbreviate a professional title if it is followed only by the last name.
Reverend Jones, Professor Newsom, Senator Hanson
If a professional title follows a name, its abbreviation might not always be punctuated. A comma will also usually precede the title.
|Christine Mundt, Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)||Mary Richards, MD (Medical Doctor)|
|Thomas Legend, RN (Registered Nurse)||Chester Gamble, J.D. (Juris Doctor)|
Punctuation for Abbreviations: Addresses, Dates, and Times
The Associated Press Stylebook advises to use abbreviated, punctuated compass points and Ave., Blvd., or St. only with a numbered address: 1060 W. Addison St., 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. but Addison Street, Pennsylvania Avenue.
Formal writing usually does not abbreviate days and months. Less-formal writing may accommodate punctuated abbreviations for specific dates. In each case, the abbreviation would be punctuated by a period.
Abbreviations for days are Mon., Tues., Weds., Thurs., Fri., Sat., and Sun. Abbreviations for months are Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. (March, April, May, June, and July are not abbreviated.)
Sun., Feb. 12; Thurs., Oct. 31; Weds., Dec. 9; Fri., Sept. 23, 1988
Whether to abbreviate such date formats is a matter of preference and style.
Punctuation of time is yet another style item that can vary by source. Many stylebooks will punctuate a.m. (or A.M.) and p.m. (or P.M.): 7:15 a.m., 8:05 P.M.
Zone abbreviations are typically not punctuated (EST, CDT, PST). Time eras are usually abbreviated and punctuated (B.C., A.D.).
Punctuation for Abbreviations: Acronyms and Initialisms
Although sometimes thought to be synonymous, acronyms, initialisms, and abbreviations are different categories of letters.
Acronyms are abbreviations pronounced as words (e.g., AIDS, OPEC). Initialisms are formed from the first letter or letters of a series of words, and each letter is pronounced (e.g., ABC, FBI).
Many stylebooks agree that acronyms are not punctuated. Some examples are NATO, NAACP, YMCA, and NAFTA.
Punctuation for initialisms can vary among style sources. For example, The Chicago Manual of Style will instruct the use of R.S.V.P., but AP will advise using RSVP.
Punctuation for Abbreviations: Other Common Uses
Other terms that are commonly abbreviated and punctuated with periods are academic degrees, units of measure, and Latin terms.
|Bachelor of Arts: B.A.||inch: in.||id est: i.e.||post scriptum: P.S.|
|Bachelor of Science: B.S.||pound: lb.||exempli gratia: e.g.||et alia: et al.|
Abbreviations vs. Acronyms vs. Initialisms
Unusual Plurals of Abbreviations
Applying what we’ve discussed, adjust any words that can be abbreviated and punctuated.
1. Darla lives at 546 West Mighty Mouse Boulevard.
2. The box weighed 35 pounds.
3. Bobby Jo Bryan Senior will receive the honors for lifetime achievement.
4. The brunch at the community center will be on Saturday, November 11.
5. Representative Fields is giving the speech at the ribbon-cutting event.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. Darla lives at 546 W. Mighty Mouse Blvd.
2. The box weighed 35 lbs.
3. Bobby Jo Bryan Sr. will receive the honors for lifetime achievement.
4. The brunch at the community center will be on Sat., Nov. 11.
5. Representative Fields is giving the speech at the ribbon-cutting event. No abbreviation or punctuation
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