Tag Archive - Abbreviations

Acronyms and Periods

Back in the day, it seemed we put periods in every acronym. Much of that has changed from when I was in elementary school. That was way before zip codes and two-letter state abbreviations. That was even before calculators, copy machines, and yes, even area codes. But I’m not here to talk about my age (by now you’re imagining I’m about ninety).

So, in case you don’t know what an acronym is, I could give you the long, tedious definition in Merriam-Webster’s, but I’ll spare you and just say that if you take the first letter of each word in a name or phrase and put them together, you have an acronym. They’re everywhere, and just about every corporation seems to have one. Here are a few: IBM, NATO, FAFSA, LASER . . .  and now we have chat and Internet acronyms like LOL and BFF, BFN, BRB (I always thought that meant “bathroom break,” but that could apply, right?), DBEYR and FWIW (okay, if you’re not up on all these, don’t concern yourself). Continue Reading…

Abbreviated Details

We writers occasionally use abbreviations in our writing, so there are a few fairly intuitive rules that apply to these shortened word forms.

First, when should you use an article (such as the or an) before an abbreviated term or name? Generally, if “the” is part of the name, but not absorbed by the abbreviation, use “the” as if the abbreviation were spelled out. Here are some examples The Chicago Manual of Style gives:

  • The NFL comprises thirty-one teams.
  • NFL games rarely get postponed owing to inclement weather.
  • In its ninety-two years, the NAACP has been a cornerstone of American civil liberties organizations.
  • NAACP membership is open to all who can afford it.
  • Advertisers for AT&T made a splash by incorporating the wah-wah pedal into recent advertisements for high-bandwidth cable.
  • Do you listen to the BBC?

What about putting the letter a in front of an acronym? Would you write “A NFL game doesn’t interest me”?

We’re taught you only use an if the article precedes a vowel. However, writers should write what they say. Acronyms are called initialisms, which means they are constructs of initials. You would say literally “En Ef El,” so, as is the rule with anything following the articles a and an, anything that begins with a vowel sound should be treated as if starting with a vowel.

I will gladly give you an MBA in grammar for writing “an NFL game.”