More about Words
Knowing when to use a, an, or the with abbreviations can be confusing. Here is the rule: Use a when the word begins with a consonant sound, and use an when the word begins with a vowel sound. For example:
In today's news, a NASA spokesman said. . .(NASA is pronounced as a word, not as individual letters. The a is correct because the word begins with a consonant sound.)
An HTML code book is helpful for a novice web designer. (H-T-M-L is pronounced as separate letters. An is correct because H is a vowel sound--aych.)
Please include an SASE with your application. (S-A-S-E is pronounced as separate letters. S is a vowel sound--ess. SASE means self-addressed stamped envelope.)
A USAF spokeswoman said that the new jets were designed badly. (U-S-A-F is pronounced as separate letters. U sounds like you--a consonant sound. A is correct to use. USAF means "United States Air Force".)
Abbreviations of units of measure are written with or without periods: lb. or lb for pound, oz. or oz for ounce, ft. or ft for foot, gal. or gal for gallon, yd. or yd for yard, yr for year, etc.
The computer terms mb or MB or M for megabytes, kb or KB for kilobytes, and G or GB (also written as gigs) are written without periods.
We do use periods for most abbreviations in lower case, as shown in the table below.
If an abbreviation ends in a period at the end of a sentence, you should not add another period.
When a person's initials stand alone, type them without spaces or periods. "Yes, CC, I will take care of that right away."
Professional designations such as CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CPA (Certified Public Accountant), or LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) are separated from the last name with a comma and written without spaces or periods. "Lance Bigelow, CPA"
Read the other categories for more information about when to use and not use spaces and periods.
Abbreviations of some Latin words are used in formal written English. You will see them used in reference books, text books, research papers, scholarly journals and other type of materials that are usually written in the formal manner. It is a good idea to become familiar with these if you are learning Business English, or writing academic essays. Some sources say to use these abbreviation only in footnotes and bibliographies. Other sources say not to use them at all. Since you will see them in many places, we have included some of the most common ones:
|c or ©||copyright (©1949)||loc. cit||in the place cited; used the same way as ibid.|
|c. ca.||about, around, circa; used with dates (She was born c.1900)||ms. mss.||manuscript, manuscripts|
|cf.||compare; cf. Magna Carta means: compare this with the Magna Carta||N.B.||note well|
|ed.||editor, edited, edition||n. d.||no date; used when the publication or copyright date of a source is not known|
|e.g.||for example; He didn't care for meat, e.g., pork, beef, poultry. (Note the comma before and after e.g.)||op. cit||in the work cited; used the same as ibid. and loc. cit|
|et al.||and others; also, elsewhere (When studying sociology, one is required to read the classic works: The Golden Bough, et al.)||q.v.||which see, whom see; indicates that the reference is within the same source; encyclopedias may use this to direct you to other entries within that same encyclopedia.|
|following page, pages; (p. 3f. means page 3 and the following page. pp. 3ff means page 3 and all of the following pages)||sic||always in italics or underlined and used in brackets [sic] after a direct quotation when there is an error in the quote, to show that the person making the quote made the error, not the person who copied it .|
|ibid.||in the same place; used with a reference that is the same as one previously cited||vide||see|
|i.e.||that is, or that is to say; note the comma before and after: The weather has been very bad, i.e., a dangerous hurricane.||etc.||et cetera (and other things) etc. is not used in formal writing, but is used quite often in informal writing. Use it when you have a lengthy list of items, and you don't want to write all of them. Be sure that the you give the reader some idea of what the unnamed items could be: The spring garden looked lovely with tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, etc., all in bloom. The reader can deduce that the etc. means other spring-blooming flowers.|
|Mrs.||mistress (The word mistress is never said. Pronounce Mrs. like missis.)|
|Mmes.||plural of mistress (Used only as a salutation in some formal letters.)|
|Messrs.||plural of Mister (Used only as a salutation in some formal letters.)|
|Ms.||not an abbreviation, but written with a period to match Mr. & Mrs. (Sounds like "mizz".)|
|Dr.||Doctor (plural is Drs.)|
|Gen.||General (Don't abbreviate military titles in formal writing. It is acceptable in informal writing.)|
|Prof.||Professor (plural is Profs.)|
|Rep.||Representative (governmental title)|
|Sen.||Senator (governmental title)|
|St.||Saint (St. can also be an abbreviation for Street)|
|Ste.||Suite. (Also means Saint when used with some French names)|
These are not really titles, but are used as such. Use these abbreviations only in informal language.
Reverend ( always write "the Reverend + his/her last name.)
|Hon.||Honorable (always write "the Honorable + his/her last name.)|
Academic degrees can be written with periods or without them, but don't use spaces within the abbreviation: Ph.D. or PhD, M.F.A. or MFA
|D.D.S./DDS||Doctor of Dental Science|
|Ph.D./PhD||Doctor of Philosophy|
|M.A./ MA||Master of Arts|
|B.S./BS||Bachelor of Science|
Don't use a title before and after a name at the same time .
Correct: Dr. George Walters or George Walters, PhD.
Incorrect: Dr. George Walters, PhD
Don't abbreviate a title without a name.
Correct: I took my sister to the doctor yesterday.
Incorrect: I took my sister to the Dr. yesterday.
When not to abbreviate:
An acronym is usually formed by taking the first initials of a phrase or compound word and using those initials to form a word that stands for something. LASER (pronounced "LAYzer"), is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. FBI (said as F--B--I) is not an acronym for the Federal Bureau of Investigation; it is an abbreviation. AIDS is an acronym; HIV is an abbreviation. URL is an abbreviation for Uniform Resource Locator (World Wide Web address), but if you pronounce it "earl", it becomes an acronym.
To find more acronyms and abbreviations, try this link: http://www.acronymfinder.com/
When Pete tells a joke, he makes all of us laugh.
The last time I spoke to Annie, she was still helping CC unpack.
(the names of specific people, places, organizations, and some things)
I like Aunt Clara because she has a parrot that swears.
BUT: I like my aunt because she has a parrot that swears.
I never knew Grandfather to get angry.
BUT: I never knew my grandfather to get angry.
Exception: Do not capitalize the non-specific use of the word god. Example:
Some cultures worship more than one god.
Percy drives for Queen Elizabeth II. BUT: Percy drives for Elizabeth, the queen.
He went to see President George W. Bush. BUT: George H. W. Bush, ex-president of the United States, was president from 1989 to 1993.
CC has moved to the South.
China is several thousand miles west of Georgia.
Exception: Seasons are capitalized when in a title, but not when used in a general sense unless it's the first word of a sentence.
The Spring Style Show will take place at the end of May. BUT: Some cities get snow in the winter.
Hamlet said, "To be or not to be, that is the question."
One of Marvin's favorite books is For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing is one of her favorite songs.
The Grapes of Wrath
Manchester United Football Club
Friends of the Wilderness
**All nationalities must be capitalized!
World War I
Dr. Pepper (soda)
Pringles (potato chips)
Swisher Sweets (cigars)
Rubenesque of, relating to, or suggestive of the painter Rubens or his works; describes plump or rounded female figures which are considered pleasing or attractive; a Rubenesque figure; said of full-figured women
gerrymander (Elbridge Gerry, American politician. A method of defining political boundaries)
boycott (Charles C. Boycott, Irish land agent. To refuse to do business with someone, or to refuse to buy a certain product because of negative belief you have.)
braille (Louis Braille, French teacher, writer and musician invented a method by which the blind can write and read.)
quisling (Vidkun Abraham Quisling, Norwegian politician. It's a term that means a person who collaborated with the Nazis; a traitor.)
pasteurized (named after Louis Pasteur, who invented a non-chemical method of sterilizing milk)
sandwich (John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich,, English diplomat. He put meat between 2 slices of bread so he could eat and not have to leave the gambling table.)
guillotine (Joseph Ignace Guillotin, French physician. An instrument of execution.)
casanova (Giovanni Jacopo Casanova, Italian adventurer. Describes a man who likes the attentions of many ladies.)
marmalade (João Marmalado, Portuguese. A fruit spread used on bread.)
Most people spell out numbers that can be expressed in one or two words and use numerals for other numbers. Others spell out figures ten (10) and under, and use numerals for 11 and higher. If the number begins the sentence, it should be written as a word. Examples:
Four score and seven years ago. . ..
Five students out of 20 passed the TOEFL exam. (This means that of the twenty (20) students who took the TOEFL exam, only five (5) of them passed the test.)
|two gallons||2 gallons|
|seven hundred dollars||$700|
|twenty-two years||22 years|
|forty pounds||40 pounds|
May 10, 1960 (but NOT 10-5-60 to mean May 10, 1960.) The American style of writing dates using numbers, is to write the month FIRST, then the date, and then the year. To write the date Dec. 9, 2000 in numbers, you MUST write it this way: 12-9-2000; NOT 9-12-2000
1941-45 or 1941-1945
4 B.C. (B.C. means before the birth of Christ)
in the 1960s, in or during the sixties
the seventeenth century; the 17th century
Spring in the U.S. begins on March 20. (In formal writing, NEVER "March 20th" !)
Bobby arrived on the twelfth of April.
Times of day**
8:00 P.M. or p.m. or pm; say eight o'clock in the evening, or eight at night, or eight p.m.
2:15 A.M. or a.m. or am; say a quarter-past two in the morning, or a quarter after two in the morning, or two fifteen in the morning, or two fifteen a.m.
3:45 P.M. or p.m. or pm; say three forty five, or fifteen to four, or fifteen minutes to (or before ) four, or quarter to four in the afternoon.
12:30 p.m. or a.m.; say twelve thirty, or half-past 12
12:00 a.m.; say midnight
12:00 p.m.; say noon
** Do not say o'clock and p.m./a.m. at the same time when saying what time it is; choose one or the other; say 8 o'clock at night, OR 8 p.m.
1500 hours means 3:00 p.m.
1730 hours means 5:30 p.m.
218 W. Walnut Street (St.)
301 South First Avenue (Ave.)
Numbered street names may be written either way (63rd Street, Sixty-third Street).
Edward III (say Edward the Third)
Route 66 (say Route sixty-six)
Room 101 (say Room one-oh-one)
Act 2, Scene 2 (or Act II, Scene ii)
a 4.0 average (say a four point OH average, or a four point average)
50 percent (For informal writing, you can write 50%)
1.5 pounds (say one and a half pounds, or a pound and a half, or one point five pounds)
three trillion dollars (or $3 trillion)
17,500 (say seventeen thousand five hundred; 17.5 thousand, say seventeen point five thousand)
Numbers referring to a person's age:
He is 15 years old.
She is 1 month old.
Those men are in their late eighties (or 80s). (87, 88, 89 years old)
NOTE: It is a very common error for students of English to say 1 years old. One year is singular, not plural. Say a year old, or one year old.
NOTE: Practice reciting numbers.
For two zeros after 1 number, say hundred (not hundreds**). For 500 say five hundred; for 850 say eight hundred and fifty, or eight fifty.
For three numbers followed by a comma and three zeros, say thousand. For 435,000 say four hundred thirty-five thousand, or four hundred and thirty-five thousand.
For a number with six zeros, write a comma after each group of 3, starting from the right side of the number: 9,000,000. Say nine million.
When saying the price of an item, don't say and, nor cents: It's on sale for $2.99; say two ninety-nine. The taxi fare was $3.50; say three fifty. BUT: The internet service costs $50 a month; say fifty dollars a month.
** Say hundreds, or thousands, or millions when there's no number specified: Thousands of people died in the tsunami.
four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and one partridge
NOT 3 French hens, two turtle doves, and 1 partridge
the final score was 10-0 (say: ten to zero)
a 4x4 truck (say: four by four)
the room was 12' x 15' (say: twelve by fifteen)
Forty-seven percent of people return at least one Christmas gift. NOT 47% of people. . .
Correct: The farmer had thirty 2-year-old heifers. (or 30 two-year-old heifers)
Incorrect: The farmer had 30 2-year-old heifers. (The reader will be confused, and will probably read it as 302)
FOR FORMAL WRITING
There were seventy-three people standing in line at the theater.
Pete easily ate one-third of the pie.
Use words to write numbers like these: second, fifty-first, etc. Do not write them as "21st, 42nd, 73rd", etc.
Milo was the fourth person to raise his hand.
Rip Van Winkle awoke in the twentieth year of his nap.
Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States.
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