An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word and consists of a few letters from the word. Examples:

km – kilometre
Mr – Mister
Tel – telephone
St – Street

Note: Unless the first and last letters of the word are used to form an abbreviation (eg Mister = Mr), it is followed by a full stop.

An acronym is an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of words and usually pronounced as a word. Examples:

South African Police Service – SAPS
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – AIDS
ASAP – as soon as possible

Some acronyms do not follow the rules exactly – they are not made up of the first letter of each word – but they are always pronounced as a word. Examples:

Armscor – Armaments Corporation of South Africa

An initialism is an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of key words but pronounced letter by letter. Examples:

HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus
CIO – Central Intelligence Organisation
DIY – do it yourself
ETA – estimated time of arrival

We often use abbreviations when we take notes. Some common ones originate from Latin. Examples:

etc. (et cetera) – and so on
e.g. (exempli gratia) – for example
i.e. (id est) – that is

Typing quick messages on cellphones are also bringing in a whole lot of modern abbreviations. Older users of the internet used to think that LOL was short for Lots of Love, but in fact the common interpretation of it is Laugh Out Loud!

And have you heard of BAE? People use it to refer to their loved one. It stands for ‘Before Anyone else…. Does this make sense to you?!

And then there is tbh (to be honest), btw (by the way) and a whole lot more that are being developed by young people just about daily. This shows how language develops and changes!