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” — is professional, whereas abbreviating is overly casual.

But pretentiousness 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) — succinctness beats stiffness. Not as an absolute 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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