Using Abbreviations in Writing: Useful Advice

by in Other

Whether you are crafting an academic paper or chatting with your friend on Facebook – there is a high probability you will end up using abbreviations. However, those are not always good for your style and can often make your message murky and confusing.

Here is a list of helpful tips which should enable you to use abbreviations correctly.

Consider the Type of Writing

It is often recommended to use shortenings in the academic papers. It stems from the fact that scholars tend to be pretty long-winded already, and abbreviations is a way to make their writing look more concise and laconic.

E.g. and i.e. are two most widely used Latin shortenings in the academic field. E.g. means exempli gratia (for example) and i.e. – in other words. It is totally fine to employ those abbreviations in your writing, however, even though it is justified and even advisable, one needs to do it with moderation.

In technical writing, on the other hand, shortened forms are viewed much more negatively. The main goal of a technical document is to provide a clear understanding and a step by step instruction of the product’s usage. An excessive number of abbreviations can not only blur the comprehension, but can also lead to misinterpretation and legal cases against the company.

So, before you dip into your rich vocabulary of acronyms and contractions, consider the type of writing you are about to perform and whether those shortenings are appropriate for it.

Think of the Intended Audience

Let’s go back to technical documentation. In most cases it is meant to be understood by any non-specialist who could get hold of it. However, sometimes it is targeted towards the experts in the field. In this case, utilizing specialized abbreviations can not only save time, but will also help avoid confusion and annoyance caused by lack of professionalism.

The general rule is to avoid resorting to abbreviations unless you are absolutely sure that any of your readers should be able to understand them.

Take a Look at the Style Guide

As you might expect, the opinions in regards to the correct usage of abbreviations vary tremendously. For instance, the American tradition requires a comma after e.g. while the British one does not. Moreover, many English language specialists would argue that periods after e and g are redundant.

Your professor may have their own views on this topic. Therefore, in order to avoid any potential mishaps, it is better to ask your teacher in advance about their style preferences.

Be Consistent

Consistency is just a sign of professionalism. If you have already chosen to write ie without dots, stick to it. I do not mean to sound pedantic, but it is crucial to the success of your paper.

First of all, such minor divergences can make your reader very confused, as they may not be familiar with different uses. Secondly, it will seem to your professor as if you did not proofread your paper, which means you did not take it seriously. It can seriously affect your overall score.


Abbreviations are really a matter of taste. There are advocates for and against on both sides, so, there is really no unified opinion regarding this issue. So, consider the above-mentioned factors and your personal preferences when choosing to employ abbreviations. Do not try to come off as intellectual. Use common sense. 

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