A brief explanation of abbreviations

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 12:00am

There are many different types of abbreviations, or forms of words that have been made briefer. This is not an attempt to fully classify them, but some notes on the topic that may help you to sort them out.

Latin abbreviations- eg - exempli gratia, for example.

etc - et cetera, and others. As 'et' means 'and', you do not include 'and' in a list ending with 'etc'.

ie - id est, that is (= further explanation)

am/pm - ante/post meridiem. Noon is 12pm; midnight is 12am (and no other time). Use 'middle of the night' if you don't mean the precise moment of 'midnight'.

Ranks - Sgt for Sergeant, Capt for Captain, and so on.

Addresses - Rd for Road, St for Street etc. Some less common ones are Sq. for Square, Blvd for Boulevard (a long, wide road) and Cres for Crescent (a small street of that shape).

Days and months - Weds. and Aug.

Letters - encl = enclosure, an extra document comes with the letter.

cc (carbon copy) - it's no longer carbon, but it's a copy sent for someone's information.

Phrases - if you send a card to your boy/girlfriend you might put SWALK (sealed with a loving kiss) on the back. Of course, things are changing now as we send less and less 'snail-mail'.

Technical terms - there are lots of these that we usually only learn and use if we become experts in a field, but electronic ones spread (though often we are not sure what they stand for) - examples are HTML (hypertext markup language), IT (information technology), FM (frequency modulation), HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), Aids (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), CD-ROM (compact disc - read-only memory), GNP (gross national product) and EQ (emotional intelligence quotient).

Organisations - there are lots of abbreviations such as dept (department), Corp (Corporation), div (division) etc.

Degrees - first degrees are bachelor degrees (BA = arts; BSc = science; Bed = education and so on). These are followed by masters degrees (eg MSc) and doctorates.

Initials - HKCEE, HKEAA, UN, UK, USA. Note that when we pronounce the initial letters as letters, we used an article: the BBC. If the initial is pronounced with a vowel and the word is accountable, 'an' has to be used - 'She has just completed an MA' (em a); 'he sent an SOS' (ess o ess, save our souls = emergency distress call).

Acronyms - these are initials which make a possible word and are pronounced as one. LAN (local area network) is an example, as is Nasa (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Compass points - N. Pole, etc.

Units of measurement - sq ft, min, cm. Some people use mins, cms and so on, but scientists seem to regard it as wasteful to add plurals.

Text references - p. 27 (page), l.23 (line). Pp. = pages and ll = lines

Geographical - particularly on maps : R. Danube, spoken with an article. 'They went sailing down the River Danube.'

Computer/messaging talk - for example, lol/LOL (laughing out loud), cu (see you), oic (Oh, I see), btw (by the way) and B4n (bye for now).

Titles - Mr, Mrs (Americans put a full stop: the British do not). Snr/Jr (used for father and son with the same name), and the Hon. Sec. (honorary secretary), not the same as the Hon. Mrs Chow (the honourable). The first means the post does not involve work (someone else does the secretarial work), the second is a mark of respect and position.

Punctuating abbreviations- really you have to follow your own style here, and try to be consistent (it's not easy). As noted above, the Americans are more likely to put a full stop than the British are.

The general British rule is that if the abbreviation ends with the last letter of the word, a full stop is not needed - for example, the Rev., but the Revd; co., but assn (association).

Use the abbreviations given to fill in the blanks.

1. Your seats are _________ 6-18.

2. Betty is studying dance in the ______.

3. I watched the film on____________.

4. I went to Admiralty on the ___________.

5. The Rocky _____ lie in that direction.

6. _________ Allen will inspect the camp and men at 7 a.m.

7. The area is rich in metals, ______ iron and copper.

8. That road leads to _________ Carolina.

9. You weigh 90_________ - that's a lot!

10. This project must be finished _____________.

11. Flat 15, Success __________ , Lo Hing St.

12. She's studying for her ____________.

13. Try Wong____________. They may stock them.

14. The _________ is very concerned about the new flu virus.

15. She lives on Evergreen ________, near the bank.


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