Don't Spell-Out What You Can Abbreviate

Amateur writers tend to look down upon abbreviations. They think that spelling out a word—say, “information” rather than “info”—makes for better writing.

But bombast does not equal polish. In fact, the opposite is often true. And when the full word is several syllables longer than its counterpart—say, “specifications” (five syllables) vs. “specs” (one)—we should favor succinctness over formality. Not as a rule, but in general.

Incidentally, the same principle holds true for contractions (“it’s” rather than “it is,” “I have” rather than “I’ve”).

Here’s a list of words for which we should err on the side of abbreviation:

1. info (information)

2. specs (specifications)

3. stats (statistics)

4. execs (executives)

5. memo (memorandum)

Addendum (8/16/2010):

6. recap (recapitulate)

Addendum (6/6/2011):

7. sync (synchronization)

Addendum (11/18/2014):

8. tech (technician)

9. fed (federal employee)

10. condo (condominium)

11. net (Internet)

12. gym (gymnasium)

13. lab (laboratory)

14. email (electronic mail message)

15. rep (representative)

Addendum (12/1/2014):

16. grad school (graduate school)

Addendum (12/9/2014):

17. math (mathematics)

18. econ (economics)

Addendum (6/11/2015):

19. demo (demonstrate)

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