Video (from Youtube): Judy Carter | Tackling acronyms, from crownspeakersbureau (new tab). (Watching time: 1m:57secs)
Judy Carter diverts her audience by delivering a speech made up almost entirely of acronyms. There is no grammar lesson in this video, but by the end there should be no doubt as to what an acronym is. Enjoy.
What is an acronym
Whenever you see the name of something shortened to its initial capital letters, like NZ, you are looking at an acronym.
Capitals are used when writing acronyms. At the most basic level an acronym is a shortened form of a group of words made up of the first letter of the (important) words of a multi-worded noun. Each letter is capitalised. For example, USA is short for United States of America.
Note: in academic writing you can use acronyms by writing the multi-worded noun (usually an organisation) in-full first, followed by the acronym in parentheses. After that, you can use the acronym alone later in your text.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), is a member of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG). Helen Clark is head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) which operates as part of the UNDG.
Acronyms that are now actual words in the language
Words like taser, modem, laser, scuba ... were originally acronyms, but now they are actual words.
Some acronyms are made up of the first letters of just some important words, or of a few of the words of the thing they are representing. If an acronym has become so well-known in the language, it can take on the status of an ordinary word. It no longer needs capitals.
For example scuba, short for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus has become a word in its own right, despite being an acronym.
Note: If this type of acronym is short for an organisation, it will probably start with a capital letter.
The availability of radar significantly increased revenue from traffic offences.
Heindrich was an infamous Gestapo officer.
Complete the quiz items below to see if you have understood this lesson. Then click the blue arrow at the bottom of the page to check your answers.
Instructions: Hover or tap the questions below to see the reason for the answers given in the quiz.
1. Select the options that are acronyms.
❍ USB ❍ laser ❍ Prof. ❍ UoW ❍ FBI
❍ USB ✔ ❍ laser ✔ ❍ Prof. ✘ ❍ UoW ✔ ❍ FBI ✔
Why: Acronyms are made up of combinations of the first letters of organisation names or thing names. They are not shortened versions, so Prof. is not an acronym. Read the lesson again for revision about why laser is considered an acronym.
2. Make an acronym for the following charity:
... a charity that has become known as the Global Public Health Organsiation
Why: Acronyms are made by taking the first letters of the multi-word noun and capitalising them. Usually the first letters are already capitals because the acronym being created is representing the name of something.
3. What is the rule regarding acronyms in academic assignments?
❍ You must never use them.
❍ You may use them after you have identified what they stand for.
❍ You may use them after you have identified what they stand for, unless you think your lecturer already knows what they mean
You may use them after you have identified what they stand for. ✔
Why: Students forget that an academic assignment is not written for the lecturer, but for a general academic audience. Therefore, assumptions about what the reader knows must be made with careful consideration.
4. Write the appropriate acronym for this organisation.
"2008 marked the 60th anniversary of the World Health Organisation (_______)
Sentences adapted from World Health Organisation
Why: Acronyms are capitalised (unless they have become part of the vocabulary of the language already; WHO is not one of these).
5. True or False. An acronym is a word that has been shortened.
Why: What is described above is an abbreviation, not an acronym.
6. Multiple True or False.
|All acronyms are upper case.||𘛝||𘛝|
|Abbreviations and acronyms are the same.||𘛝||𘛝|
|I can make up my own acronyms.||𘛝||𘛝|
|Only words in capitals can become acronyms.||𘛝||𘛝|
I can make up my own acronyms. True ✔
Other three statements are false
Why: Acronyms are a convention to make a text more readible, and reduce wordy clutter. However, if a text has too many acronyms it can reduce the readibility of your text, so always make your text as easy as possible for your reader.