Abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms

Many of us may have been introduced to a new company only to find that we don’t understand the language of its people; or of our new job… due to the many acronyms! And interestingly, long-standing employees often are not exactly sure what those acronyms mean….

Others, me included, find ourselves at times a little lost when faced with the evolving language of text and tech, in which case the acronym finder (which claims to be the world’s largest and most comprehensive dictionary of abbreviations and acronyms) can be handy.

Here are some current rules of the road.

  • Abbreviations that are formed by using the first initials of separate words should not have any full stops after the letters: OPQ, US, UK, PJM
  • Acronym: this is a word, like radar or UNICEF, not a set of initials, like the ABC or FBI.
  • Write out years not yrs, even if part of a quote.
  • Make an acronym or abbreviation plural by adding an s (no apostrophe), for example OPQs, WSQs.
  • Spell out any unfamiliar abbreviations and acronyms at first mention, with the abbreviation immediately following in brackets, for example: Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ). When mentioning again later in the same document, use the abbreviation only.
  • Abbreviate the names of days as follows (note the full stops):

Sun.      Mon.     Tues.    Wed.     Thurs.   Fri.        Sat.

  • Abbreviate the months as follows:

Jan.      Feb.      Mar.      Apr.      Aug.      Sept.     Oct.      Nov.      Dec.

May, June and July should not be shortened.



via Acronym and initialism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In 1943, David Davis of Bell Laboratories coined the term acronym as the name for a word created from the first letters of each word in a series of words (such as sonar, created from sound navigation and ranging).

Although the term acronym is widely used to describe any abbreviation formed from initial letters, most dictionaries define acronym to mean “a word” in its original sense,  while some include a secondary indication of usage, attributing to acronym the same meaning as that of initialism. According to the primary definition found in most dictionaries, acronyms examples include, NATO, scuba , and radar, while examples of initialisms would include FBI and HTML.

There is no agreement on what to call abbreviations whose pronunciation involves the combination of letter names and words, such as JPEG and MS-DOS.

The term for the word-by-word reconstruction of an acronym or initialism is an expansion.

And finally some definitions…

WWW: World Wide Wait

DOS: Defective Operating System

CD-ROM: Consumer Device – Rendered Obsolete in Months

from Aaron’s Jokes

To: All EMS Personnel From: Chief of Operations Subject: Proper Narrative Descriptions

It has come to our attention from several emergency rooms that many EMS narratives have taken a decidedly creative direction lately. Effective immediately, all members are to refrain from using slang and abbreviations to describe patients, such as the following:

1) Cardiac patients should not be referred to as suffering from MUH (messed up heart), PBS (pretty bad shape), PCL (pre-code looking) or HIBGIA (had it before, got it again).

2) Stroke patients are NOT “Charlie Carrots.”

Nor are rescuers to use CCFCCP(Coo Coo for Cocoa Puffs) to describe their mental state.

3) Trauma patients are not CATS (cut all to sh*t), FDGB (fall down, go boom), TBC (total body crunch) or “hamburger helper”.

Similarly, descriptions of a car crash do not have to include phrases like “negative vehicle to vehicle interface” or “terminal deceleration syndrome.”

4) HAZMAT teams are highly trained professionals, not “glow worms.”

5) Persons with altered mental states as a result of drug use are not considered “pharmaceutically gifted.”

6) Gunshot wounds to the head are not “trans-occipital implants.”

7) The homeless are not “urban outdoors men”, nor is endotracheal intubation referred to as a “PVC Challenge”.

8) And finally, do not refer to recently deceased persons as being “paws up”, ART (assuming room temperature), CC (Cancel Christmas), CTD (circling the drain), DRT (dead right there).

[Content of this post © Ascension Editing 2010]I know you will all join me in respecting the cultural diversity of our patients to include their medical orientations in creating proper narratives and log entries.


I wonder if CTM in Brookvale, Sydney Australia, still has NO PICK UP’S ON SATURDAY’S.

Misuse of the apostrophe is common and give a negative impression of an author’s writing skills…

(from - Richard writes: Here's some real exclusivity! A bookstore in Mt. Eden, Auckland, New Zealand is holding a festival for one writer and one reader. I wonder who the lucky pair were.

Here are some rules that are not difficult to remember.

Expressions of Time

It was previously conventional to use an apostrophe in expressions of time involving a plural reference, such as:

  • Six weeks’ time
  • Three months’ wages

The apostrophe is now often left out, i.e.:

  • Six weeks time
  • Three months wages

The sense of these phrases tends to be more descriptive than possessive.

When the time reference is in the singular, however, the apostrophe should be retained to help mark the noun as singular:

A day’s journey, the year’s cycle

– Source: Style Manual, 6th edition.

It’s vs. its

It’s not correct to leave the apostrophe out if it’s a matter of ‘it is’.

It’s the cat’s habit to chase its tale (this is a cat with character). It is: it’s. The nose belongs to it: its nose.

1.         It’s = It is

2.         Its = belonging to it

Numbers and dates

  • Numbers and dates, such as in his 60s, fly 767s, during the 1980s—All the regional style manuals including the Chicago Manual (2003) agree on this [no apostrophe]. Apostrophes are usually there in the plural of single numbers, as in All the 2’s and 3’s were missing.
  • If there are two or more owners, add ‘s’ then an apostrophe.


Acknowledgement of others’ views… (Plural ‘others’—the views belonging to others)

The candidates’ views were not considered. (Plural of candidate)

  • If there’s one owner, add an apostrophe and then ‘s’.

… initiatives or strategic ways in which the successful candidate’s learning could be leveraged.

  • The exception to this rule is:

For words which form their plural by changing internal letters (instead of adding ‘s’), the apostrophe comes before the ‘s’.

It was the children’s turn to wash up.

Some other words which follow this rule are: men, women, people.

Joint ownership or association is shown by placing the apostrophe -s on the second of the two owners;

  • His mother and father’s legacy
  • Rutherford and Bohr’s atom

In contrast, where the ownership is not joint, each name takes and apostrophe;

His mother’s and father’s voices

Sibelius’s and Grieg’s works


[Content of this post © Ascension Editing 2010]