|SPECIAL EDITION||UWF WRITING LAB|
Initialisms vs. Acronyms
By Brian Hansen
To the uninitiated, ACT is
an acronym. After all, the initial letters form a word; and, as we all know,
acronyms are words formed by the first letters or syllables of each of the
words or major words that make up the acronym. Thus, NOW and scuba, for
example, are acronyms.
COBOL - Common Business-Oriented Language
SADD - Students Against Drunk Driving
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
yuppie - young, urban professional
When written lowercase, initialisms generally require periods; when written in uppercase, they do not:
UPS - United Parcel Post
ERA - Equal Rights Amendment
b.v.d's - the initials of the company Bradley, Voorhees, and Day
a.m. - ante meridiem
p.m. - post meridiem
IRA - Individual Retirement Account
STD - sexually transmitted disease
From the Desk of Mamie Webb Hixon, the Grammar Guru
As long as acronyms and initialisms are universally recognizable, such as BA, MA, MD, JD, Ph.D and UNCF, or as long as they are used by people working together on specific projects (LPOs,), these abbreviations are easily understood. One kind of problem arises when a familiar abbreviation like AA could mean Alcoholics Anonymous or Associate of Arts, depending on the context. If the writer doesn't provide a parenthetical explanation, then the reader is confused.
Acronyms such as NASA, NATO, fax, Zip Code, radar, laser, and sonar are so commonplace as words in the English language that hardly anyone remembers that they are indeed words formed from the initials or other parts of several words (especially the acronyms spelled with lower-case letters). These kinds of acronyms don't need parenthetical explanations.
When acronyms and initialisms are not recognizable (PSI or the ANSWER Coalition), they might not be understood by the reader.
Since initialisms such as MRI, VCR, DVD, IRS, USA, RSVP, SUV, DNA, DUI, UFO, EKG, YMCA and YWCA, NAACP, BC, AD, DMV, PSA, and a.m. and p.m. are better known by their initials, use the initialisms. Similarly, since Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and National Organization for Women are better known by their acronyms AIDS and NOW respectively, use the acronyms. Other common acronyms include scuba, radar, sonar, laser, Zip code, FEMA, NASA, NATO, and OPEC.
A good rule of thumb is this: use abbreviations only when your audience knows what they mean; when using unfamiliar acronyms and initialisms, first spell out the multiword term and place its initialism or acronym in parentheses. Thereafter, use the abbreviation.
GRAMMAR TRIVIA QUESTION
What do the acronyms NOW and scuba stand for?
Call the Grammar Hotline at (850)474-2129 for the answer.
By Jennell McCullough
Which of the following is correct?
1. Benjamin Franklin said remember that time is money.
2. Among the reference books on the chairman's bookshelf is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
When quoting directly, use quotation marks to differentiate between your words and those from a source. Use a comma to introduce a quotation, and always place periods inside the closing quotation marks, even if the quotation is only a single word. So, sentence one should read as follows:
Benjamin Franklin said, "Remember that time is money."
Notice that the first word of a complete quoted statement begins with a capital letter. Quotation marks are also used to enclose these titles: articles, chapters in a book, songs, short stories, essays, poems, and speeches.
Italics is used primarily to identify certain titles such as books, plays, newspapers, magazines, paintings, sculptures, movies, ships, and specific names of aircraft. Therefore, sentence two should be written as follows:
Among the reference books on the chairman's bookshelf is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
According to Mamie Hixon's Real Good Grammar, Too,
italics (underlining) is also used to identify foreign words or phrases that
have not become adapted to English usage. If in doubt as to whether a word has
been adapted to English, consult a dictionary. Some common foreign words,
phrases, and expressions that have become anglicized are as follows:
Use italics to set off words used as words, and use quotation marks to set off definitions as in the following:
According to the dictionary, audit simply means "verification or examination of financial accounts or records."
ON-THE-JOB GRAMMAR TIP
Usually not italicized, e.g. is a formal abbreviation for for example and usually precedes phrases.
i.e. is a formal abbreviation for that is and usually precedes clauses.
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