Chomiji (chomiji) wrote in fandom_grammar,

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Answer: Using Punctuation with Abbreviations

starwatcher307 asked us "How do you punctuate with abbreviations?"

One of the first things to get out of the way on this issue is whether you want to use periods (British usage: full stops) in your abbreviations. For a discussion about how to decide whether to use periods in an abbreviation, see our earlier article.

If the abbreviation in question is something like NCIS or CIA, without periods, you would follow normal rules of punctuation, as you would for the complete name of the organization. But if your abbreviation is, say, U.N. (United Nations) or Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), things are a little more tricky - but only a little.

Really, because the period is the only punctuation mark routinely used to indicate an abbreviation, it's typically the only punctuation mark that causes confusion. When a word that's abbreviated with a period or periods shows up at the end of a declarative sentence, what do you do?

The short answer is that only one period is necessary:

"Bonner's losing some of his cred in the hearings," said Jamil, and grinned. "That woman on the Aerospatiale team? The one he was trying to string along? Turns out she has five kinds of engineering certification and a physics Ph.D."

When you use such an abbreviation with other types of punctuation, just follow the usual rules for using that type of mark:

"Do you think they plan to try to turn the issue of Cyteen over to the U.N.?" asked Saito. "Perhaps, but I don't think even blue-sky legislators are naive enough to think that the jurisdiction of the United Nations extends to a system that many light years away."
"All right, listen up!" bawled the MP. "The following men are coming with me: Bruno Cannon, Joffry Hardesty, Komo Keever, Jr., and Harry Vasquez."
Commander Porey leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. "Perhaps you're under the impression that making a decision on the fate of these personnel requires authorization from Earth, or even a J.D.; however, the truth is that I am the sole law on this station at the moment."

Another point to keep in mind is that you can often dodge the question of how to use punctuation with abbreviations. In many cases, it may not be appropriate to use an abbreviation at all:

Tanzer said, "I don't like what I'm hearing about the attitude in your hand-picked crews, Lt."

In this case, the abbreviation for the military rank lieutenant should not be used on its own. It could be used with the officer's name, or it could be written out:

Tanzer said, "I don't like what I'm hearing about the attitude in your hand-picked crews, Lt. Graff."


Tanzer said, "I don't like what I'm hearing about the attitude in your hand-picked crews, Lieutenant."

Both of these alternatives eliminate the need to worry about what to do with the abbreviation's period at the end of the sentence.

To sum up: don't let abbreviations rattle you. In most cases, the rules for punctuating them are the same as the rules for punctuating their unabbreviated forms.


Tags: !answer, author:chomiji, formatting, punctuation, style choice:punctuation

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