Posted by: Jack Henry | July 17, 2012

Editor’s Corner: Acronyms, Initialisms, & the Apostrophe

So much to do, so little time! Here is another excerpt from Grammar Girl’s newest book: Grammar Girl’s 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time.

Making Abbreviations Plural: RBIs

Acronyms are abbreviations that are pronounced as words (NASA), and initialisms are abbreviations for which you say each letter (FBI).

Even though it doesn’t make perfect sense, you make initialisms and acronyms plural by adding an s to the end no matter what part would be plural if you wrote out the whole thing. Therefore, even though you would write runs batted in, the plural is RBIs.

In the past, some publications used apostrophes to make acronyms and initialisms plural, so until a few years ago, it was common to see something like RBI’s or CD’s in The New York Times. But these days, the major style guides recommend omitting the apostrophe.

[KC – We do the same here in our documentation at Symitar—at least the items that come through our editing queue. You may notice that PCs, VPNs, IDs, and other
acronyms do not contain apostrophes after we’ve had our way with them. Occasionally, we may make an exception if the apostrophe adds clarity.]

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