An abbreviation is a brief way of writing a word or phrase using only the letters of the alphabet. Examples are: Mr for Mister and Dr for Doctor. In British English, an abbreviation that contains the first and last letters of the full expression does not take a full stop. Therefore in British usage Dr is the abbreviation for doctor.
In American English, abbreviations usually take a full stop and Dr. is preferred.
Many abbreviations have their origin in Latin words and phrases. Examples are: lb. for pounds, e.g. for 'for example' and i.e. for 'in other words'.
An abbreviation usually does not have a distinct pronunciation of its own: we pronounce Mr as 'Mister' and 'i.e.' as 'in other words'.
Acronyms and initialisms
Acronyms and initialisms are sometimes classified as abbreviations, but this practice is neither usual nor recommended. An acronym is a word constructed by combining the initial letters of the principal words in a phrase. An acronym is usually pronounced as a word and has the same meaning as the original phrase.
Examples are: SCUBA for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, LASER for light amplification by the simulated emission of radiation and NATO for North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Some acronyms are formed in a different way, but they can still be pronounced as words. An example is RADAR which is the acronym for radio detection and ranging.
An initialism is formed in the same way as an acronym, but it cannot be pronounced as a word. Examples are: BBC for British Broadcasting Corporation, FBI for Federal Bureau of Investigation and UNO for United Nations Organization. An initialism must be spelled out letter by letter.
Manjusha Nambiar is the founder and editor of Grammar English.Org. Her blog gives free English Grammar lessons, quizzes and grammar worksheets http://grammarenglish.org/english-grammar-worksheets.
[Edited by Administrator (admin) Wed, 06 Jul 2011, 03:50 PM]