Abbreviations, Numbers, Italics, Spelling
Abb or Abb X: abbreviations. Avoid abbreviations, symbols and slashes in formal writing.
WRONG: etc. e.g. i.e. &
RIGHT: and others for example that is and he or she
Use no periods with abbreviations of organizations: ACLU, BYU, IBM, NATO. Abbreviations are acceptable for countries: USA or U.S.; the former USSR.
In science reports, abbreviations of measurements may be used: mm., kg. Use symbols like $ and % only for specific numbers, and only if your topic requires you to refer repeatedly to amounts:
WRONG: a %age of the population RIGHT: a percentage of the population WRONG: My library fine was $5. RIGHT: My library fine was five dollars. WRONG: I weigh 110 lbs. RIGHT: I weigh 110 pounds.
Use a.m. and p.m. for time of day (7:30 p.m.) but not as substitutes for "morning" and "afternoon." B.C. follows a date; A.D. precedes a date (43 B.C., A.D. 17).
Do not use apostrophes for the plurals of abbreviations:
WRONG: Many PhD's are unemployed.
RIGHT: Many PhDs are unemployed.
Back to top.
N: numbers. If your teacher marks "N," identify the error that you made.
1. Write out numbers that require one or two words; use figures for others.
WORDS: one, ninety-nine, one hundred FIGURES: 101 1,760
The same rules apply for ordinal numbers (those that indicate order): first, nineteenth, ninety-ninth, one hundredth, 101st, 102nd, 103rd, one thousandth, 1,001st. Never add the suffix -ly to ordinals:
WRONG: firstly, secondly RIGHT: first, second
Occasionally figures are useful to avoid confusion:
AMBIGUOUS: two fifty-dollar tickets CLEAR: two 50-dollar tickets
2. Use figures for fractions, decimals, times, dates, percentages, statistics, scores, and divisions in books.
Examples: "22/7 or 3.14," "chapter 2," "Enrollment dropped to 57," "Green Bay won 35-10." Use hyphens for numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine and for all fractions.
3. Do not begin sentences on numerals. Rephrase the sentence:
WRONG: 156 died in the crash. RIGHT: In the crash 156 died.
4. Do not use apostrophes with plurals of numbers or dates. Fives, 5s, the 1990s.
5. In a range of numbers or years, only the last two digits repeat.
WRONG: 57-8 127-131 1608-1674 RIGHT: 57-58 127-31 1608-74 299-301 1558-1603
Back to top.
Ital: italics. Write the rule you violated. For italics and titles, see Titles in Part Four.
1. Italicize words, letters, numbers, abbreviations. Use italics or quotation marks for words, letters and numbers when you refer to them as such:
I can never pronounce twelfths. I can never pronounce "twelfths." The final e in make is silent. The final "e" in "make" is silent.
Be consistent; use italics or quotation marks, but not both:
WRONG: Do not write incidence when you mean "incident."
Italics have one advantage. They look better than quotation marks with apostrophes, which are used to indicate plurals of words, letters, numbers and abbreviations:
UGLY: Dot your "i"'s and cross your "t"'s.
BETTER: Dot your i's and cross your t's.
Do not highlight letters and numbers when they are not referred to as such:
WRONG: I had a B- on the quiz.
RIGHT: I had a B- on the quiz.
2. Italicize foreign expressions. Exception: do not use italics if the expression is common enough to appear in a dictionary of English ("adieu," "adios," "aloha").
3. Italics in quotations. You may use italics to highlight words within a quotation, as long as you immediately add a parenthesis saying "emphasis added" to prevent readers from wondering whether the original passage has italics:
Shakespeare describes his claim upon his beloved using legal and financial terms: "The charter of thy worth," "My bonds in thee," "my patent" (emphasis added).
4. Ital T: typography. If your word processing program does not make italics, or if you write by hand, indicate the italics with underlines. Underlines should be continuous, not broken.
WRONG: The Woman Warrior
RIGHT: The Woman Warrior
Back to top.
Ital X: misuse. The use of italics for emphasis is a gimmick. Avoid it. If an intelligent reader cannot tell where the emphasis should lie, your sentence needs rephrasing, not the artificial enhancement of typography.
CHEAP: "Is it really true?" I asked in disbelief.
Back to top.
SPL: spelling list. The list below includes words that are often misspelled.
absence conscious gauge no one roommate academic consistent genius non-existent sacrifice accidentally coolly government noticeable sacrilegious accommodate curiosity grammar obstinate schedule acknowledgment decision guerrilla occasion secretary acquire definitely harass occurred seize across descendant hindrance occurrence self-conscious address describe humorous omission separate aging description hypocrisy opposite sergeant aggressive despair idiosyncrasy original several all right desperate immediately parallel significant always devastate incidentally pastime similar amateur develop indispensable perceive simile analysis dilemma infinite perseverance soliloquy analyze disappear ingenious persuade sophomore apology disappoint intelligence phenomena (plural) subtly arctic disastrous interest phenomenon (singular) succeed argument doesn't irrelevant pigeon success athlete each other irresistible possess surprise athletics ecstasy jealousy possession temperature attach eighth judgment precede thorough attendance eligible laboratory prejudice threshold basically embarrass laid privilege tomorrow beginning eminent license probably tragedy believe entrance lightning proceed transferred benefited environment loneliness professor truly Britain exaggerate magnificent publicly undoubtedly bureaucracy exercise maintenance pursue unnecessarily business existence maneuver questionnaire until calendar explanation marriage receive usage candidate familiar mathematics recommend vacuum cannot fascinate medieval reference vengeance cemetery fiend memento referred villain changeable fluorescent millennium regard warrant changing foreign minuscule relief weird commitment foresee mischievous relevant whether committed forty modern religion withhold conceive fourth narrator reminiscence writing condescend friend neighbor repetition conscience frustrated necessary restaurant conscientious fulfill niece rhythm
Back to top.