Abbreviations, Numbers, Italics, Spelling


Abb or Abb X: abbreviations.

Ital: italics.

N: numbers.

1. words, letters, numbers, abbreviations.

1. Writing numbers or figures.

2. foreign expressions.

2. Figures.

3. Italics in quotations.

3. Numerals.

4. Ital T: typography.

4. Apostrophes.

Ital X: misuse.

5. Range of numbers.

SPL: spelling list.



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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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  

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