Keep It Short and Sweet: All About Abbreviations

Posted by Lindsay Geoffroy


Ugh, spelling… am I right? Who has time to write out every single word all the time? Well, that’s where abbreviations come in. An abbreviation, as most people already know, is a shortened form of a word or phrase. Fittingly, the word “abbreviation” comes from the Latin brevis, which means “short.”

Abbreviations are used in order to avoid having to write out an entire word or phrase. As such, they have been in use for a long time (people have historically been time-savers!) Because written works were often transcribed in stone or written by hand, abbreviations allowed writers to save time and space in their works. Abbreviations were employed in classical Greece and Rome, as well as in Great Britain by the Anglo-Saxon peoples.

Want to learn a little more about abbreviations? Keep reading!

When Do we Abbreviate?

There are many instances in which it is appropriate to use abbreviations. Below are a few examples.

Formal Titles: In order to save space, formal titles are often abbreviated in different ways. Common title abbreviations include: “Dr.” (“Doctor”), “Prof.” (“Professor), and “Rev.” (“The Reverend”).

Writing/Publishing: Single-letter abbreviations for Latin words often appear in the writing and publishing fields (including typography, literature, and notes). For example, in the reference portion of a book or scholarly article (wherein another work is being sourced), “page” is abbreviated “p.” and “pages” is abbreviated “pp.”

Acronyms: An acronym is an abbreviation composed of the initial letters in a phrase. For example, The United States of America is typically abbreviated USA. The word “acronym” was first seen in the English lexicon back in 1940. An acronym is typically pronounced as its own word. Some additional examples of acronyms include: “FAQ” (“Frequently Asked Questions”), “ATM,” (“Automated Teller Machine”), and “Sonar” (“Sound Navigation and Ranging”).  For a more comprehensive list of acronyms, check out this website.

How Does This Relate to Translation and Localization?

Abbreviations, like slang, may not translate well from one language to another because of cultural differences between countries or regions. In order for abbreviations to be properly understood after translation, it is critical that translators also localize abbreviations so that they will make sense to the target audience.

If your company has specialized, abbreviation-laden materials that need to be translated and localized, come toLionbridge!