Common Abbreviations

Abbreviations are meant to make our lives a little easier. By shortening frequently used words and phrases we are able to save time and convey the same information. However, some abbreviations can have tricky or inconsistent rules. Here are a few abbreviations that you might use on a regular basis when writing formal emails, memos or letters:

Titles before a name: Mr., Mrs., Ms., Prof., Dr.

Using titles before a person’s name is the proper way to formally address an individual in any written communication. You might begin a letter with the salutation “Dear Mr. Doe” or “To: Mr. John Doe.” However, when using a person’s name within the body of your message, it is not necessary to refer to an individual as Mr. John Doe. Simply use the name John Doe.

Titles after a name: Jr., Sr., Ph.D.

Using titles after a person’s name can also clarify which individual you are speaking of—for example: John Doe Sr. or John Doe Jr. You may also use this abbreviation in this way: Mr. and Mrs. John Doe Jr. However, it is not standard to use Jr. or Sr. when omitting the individual’s first name: Mr. Doe Jr.

Names of countries: U.S.A., U.K.
You can also use USA as an abbreviation for the United States of America, however, if writing U.S. it is standard to always use the periods in between.

Names of states: NY, VA, MD
These abbreviations should only be used when referring to addresses on an envelope or list. When referring to the actual state within the body of a message, it is standard to write the entire name. For example: “I am going to NY for the weekend” is incorrect while “I am going to New York for the weekend” is correct.

Names of commonly used objects: TV, DVD, CD

Periods between the letters of these abbreviations are not required.

Units of measure: in., ft, lb, m, kg

Using a period after units of measure is not necessary except in the case of in. Since this unit can be confused with the word “in” it is helpful to add the period after it. There is no need to add an “s” after the unit of measure to make it plural. Also, when using the unit as a modifier such as a 10-ft wall or 3-lb weight, it is common to add a hyphen between the number and unit.

Time: A.M., P.M.

This can also be written as a.m. or p.m.

Hopefully this has shed some light on the common abbreviations we use. Are there any others that we might have missed? Or do you have any questions regarding the ones we have used here? Please comment below!

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