Acronyms – how to use them

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Acronyms – definition

Acronyms An acronym is an abbreviation created from the initial letters of a phrase or name.

BBC British Broadcasting Corporation
IBM International Business Machines
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation


Acronyms These acronyms are useful, because they save you the trouble of writing out the name in full every time you wish to refer to it.

Acronyms Some acronyms, like those above, are very well known, and can be used without too much problem in most written communication.

Acronyms However, any which are not so well know should always be named in full the first time they are used, and the acronym shown immediately afterwards in brackets. Here’s an example.

The committee elected four new members to the Corporate Affairs Steering Group (CASG) who will report immediately before the annual general meeting (AGM) at the end of July.

Acronyms Some abbreviations are spoken as if they were complete words: for instance, NATO ("NayTow"). and International Criminal Police Organization ("Inter-Pol")

Acronyms Others are spelled out. For instance Very Important Person is (VIP) usually spoken as three separate letters "Vee-Eye-Pea".

Acronyms There is no need to put full stops between the letters of an acronym.

Acronyms The plural of an acronym is shown by adding the letter s – as in compact disks (CDs)

redbtn There is no need to use an apostrophe, which should be reserved for cases showing possession – as in ‘the CD’s jewel case was broken’.

redbtn Most acronyms are formed by the use of capital letters, but where a normally pronounceable word is formed, they often include lower case letters as well – as in (Radar) – radio detecting and ranging.

redbtn Acronyms are particularly useful when taking notes, but you should remember to make a record of the full name of any new instances.

AIDS acquired immune deficiency syndrome
ASBO Anti-Social Behaviour Order
BBC British Broadcasting Corporation
CD Compact Disc
FAQ frequently asked questions
Gestapo Geheime Staatspolizei (secret state police)
Interpol International Criminal Police Organization
Laser Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Radar radio detection and ranging
Scuba self-contained underwater breathing apparatus
SQL Structured Query Language
WHO World Health Organisation

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© Roy Johnson 2011

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