Posted by: Jack Henry | August 10, 2016

Editor’s Corner: When to Use Abbreviations

Good morning, friends and neighbors.

In technical and business writing, abbreviations are used generously—too generously. Some years ago, when I was a new Symitar employee, I was overwhelmed by all the abbreviations. I created a spreadsheet and referred to it often.

The problem with abbreviations is that not everyone knows what they stand for. That’s why, in most cases, your friendly editors ask that you spell out the word or words on the first usage, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses, and then you can use the abbreviation alone afterward.

Of course, there are exceptions. There are always exceptions!

· Titles of senior corporate executives (CEO, CFO, COO, etc.) are typically abbreviated. You do not need to spell them out.

· CD and DVD are abbreviations that do not need to be spelled out. In fact, people may not even know what the letters stand for, so it might be confusing if you do spell them out. The same is true for URL. Some other well-known abbreviations that you do not need to spell out are IRS, NASA, vs., and etc. And the list goes on.

· OK is preferred over okay because OK is likely a derivation of oll korrect, a humorous way to indicate that something is all correct (traced back to 1838).

Just ask yourself, if the abbreviation you’re using will be clear to everyone. Make sure it’s not an abbreviation that will flummox newbies or people outside your department, company, or profession. If you’re not sure, spell it out the first time you use it.

If you’d like to read more about abbreviations, click here. If you’d like to see a bowl of puppies, click here.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Technical Publications Writing and Editing Requests

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