Abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms, oh my!

Lesson: learning the difference between abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms

What is an abbreviation?
An abbreviation is any shortened word or phrase.


What is an acronym?
An acronym is a type of abbreviation. However, to be an acronym, the shortened name or phrase must make a new word that you can pronounce. For instance, NATO is an acronym because you can say nay-to; yet, TGIF is not an acronym because you don’t hear people say ti-jiff. (But, of course, if you want to start that trend, more power to ya.)

Here are more examples of acronyms:
the PATRIOT act

What is an initialism?
An initialism is also a type of abbreviation. With this type, the first letter of each word is taken together to make up the abbreviation. For instance, atm is an initialism because the a is for automatic, the t is for teller, and m is for machine. Thus atm.

Here are more examples of initialisms:

Editorial Brain Dump #1

Here are ten things I’ve learned in my editorial adventures over the last week.

1. Foolhardy is one word.

2. Matter-of-factly is hyphenated.

3. Weeble is a product name, not just a fun word to say.

4. Scot-free, is spelled with one t, not two like “Scott-free.”

5. Amuck can either be spelled this way or as amok.

6. No-show is hyphenated.

7. Our nation’s capital is punctuated this way: Washington, D.C.

8. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, abbreviations for organizations don’t need periods if they are in all capital letters. Example: World Health Organization, WHO.

9. In Trojan Horse, both the t and h are capitalized.

10. When not emphasizing a specific time, use words instead of numerals. Example: Let’s meet around ten thirty.