How to use full stops with abbreviations

Posted on 25 February 2014 by Lucy Gregory

 
The guidance below is based on modern British English use and incorporates the Attica house style.
 

Abbreviations

An abbreviation is the shortened form of a word.

There are two main types of abbreviation: (1) when you chop off the end of a word, and (2) initialisms.

When you chop off the end of a word, it’s common in British English to use a full stop. If the word comes at the end of a sentence, you don’t need to add a second full stop.

Example

assoc. (association)

Weds.  (Wednesday)

doc. (document)

ital. (italics)

Prof. (Professor)

 
Over time, some abbreviations become proper words. Once this happens, you don’t need a full stop. Examples include ‘fridge’, ‘gym’, ‘rhino’, ‘typo’ and ‘photo’.

 

Initialisms

An initialism is a type of abbreviation, created from the first letters of other words. Sometimes they are included in the definition of ‘acronym’. I wouldn’t get caught up on the definition – the important thing is to write initialisms without full stops.

Example

BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

TFL (Transport for London)

WMD (weapons of mass destruction)

RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)

 

Lowercase initialisms

At Attica, we also write all lowercase initialisms without full stops.
 
This is because most lowercase initialisms are written without full stops and we like to be consistent.
 
Example

am / pm

eg / ie
 
It’s common, however, to write a.m., p.m., i.e. and e.g. with full stops.
 

Acronyms

An acronym is a new word created from the letters of other words (usually the first letters). In British English, you don’t include a full stop between the letters, even if they’re capitals.

Example

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

Aids (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)

laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation)

scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus)

 

Contractions

I discussed one type of contraction last week: words that are shortened by using an apostrophe.

But you don’t always need an apostrophe. To create a contraction, you keep the first and last letters of a word but chop out a few letters in the middle. In British English, we generally write these words without a full stop at the end.

Example

Dr (doctor)

edn (edition)

dept (department)

Ltd (Limited)