Abbreviate Abbreviations in Your Writing

We live in a world of instant gratification, instant success, instant food, just about instant everything. We have the attention span of gerbils as we flip through channels on our televisions or move away from web sites that don’t load fast enough.

And this trend shows up in our writing in the form of abbreviations. Department becomes Dept. Management becomes Mgmt.  Each example eliminates some of the word’s vowels.

I knw th wrld cn ndrstnd ths.

I’m sure you get the idea of my previous sentence and there isn’t one vowel in it (except the opening “I”). But getting the idea isn’t what you want when you write. You want to be understood.

Text messaging is another example of how we’ve come to rely on abbreviations in our writing.

Book writing, however, differs from other writing because books immortalize authors. Add that we’re writing in a living language and you only have to read one or two Olde English books to see how language evolves. We don’t need to complicate the reader’s experience by adding too many abbreviations.

ACRONYMS

Having said that, it’s also tedious to read the spelled out names of commonly recognized acronyms. For example, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers is well-known as MADD. So when writing about MADD, include the spelled out name the first time you use the acronym, then use the acronym thereafter. Example: She looked up MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) on the Internet. She was amazed at how much information there was about MADD.

Another issue for writers is whether to use “a” or “an” with an acronym. How we pronounce the first word of the acronym determines which we use, not whether the first letter is a consonant or vowel. For example, the consonant “n” sounds like a vowel, so we use “an.” Example: Insert an en-dash between numbers such as 2010-2011.

STATES and COMPASS POINTS

Everyone knows to abbreviate states with the two-letter abbreviation (AK, AR, ND, NY, etc.), but we don’t always know when to abbreviate compass points. Abbreviate compass points that follow street names, but not those that precede street names. Example: He lived at 210 Tulip Street NW. He lived at 210 Northwest Tulip Street.

TITLES

Abbreviate social titles such as Ms. or Mr. or Mrs.

Abbreviate other titles only when they precede a person’s name. Example: Rev. Billy Graham.

DATES

Abbreviate dates (Jun 2, 2011) only in informal writing. When writing your book (which is formal writing), spell out June 2, 2011.

Remember that your book will reflect on you for a long time. Be sure you write to be understood. Abbreviations are a good tool, but can be confusing. Avoid overusing them.

Happy writing!

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3 Responses to “Abbreviate Abbreviations in Your Writing”


  1. 1 Fay June 5, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I always learn something new in your posts. It is such a good refresher because it has been so many, many years since I studied English and grammer and punctuation. Thanks.

  2. 3 Mildred May 2, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    continuously i used to read smaller posts which
    also clear their motive, and that is also happening with this post
    which I am reading now.


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