Day: February 18, 2015
Abbreviations have been around for as long as people have been putting thoughts to paper (or stone, parchment, or whatever other materials have been used throughout history). From ancient Greece to Twitter, shorthand has been used to save time, space and materials. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from Greek stenos (narrow) and graphie (writing), or sometimes brachygraphy, from Greek brachys (short) or tachygraphy, from Greek tachys (swift, speedy). A great example of an abbreviation devised in ancient Latin that has carried through to today is the symbol we use for and, the ampersand (&), short for the Latin word et. Check out Kate Wiles’s post from The History Vault entitled The History of Abbreviation if you are interested in learning more.
Abbreviation is the umbrella term for anything that is shortened but retains its original meaning. This includes initialisms (pronounced letter by letter: RCMP, HIV), acronyms (pronounced as words: NASA, AIDS), contractions (Dr., don’t) and symbols (&, $). Some abbreviations are obvious either from the context or from convention, such as contractions and symbols, but others require explanation to be understood by readers. I will focus my attention on those. It is my intent with this first post to highlight some of the issues that arise with using abbreviations in formal writing, as well as some guidelines for making your writing accessible to your readers. In the second post, I will tackle the wide variety of style choices available and consider the pros and cons of each. Read the rest of this entry »