In today’s world, abbreviations are almost becoming out of control, with new ones popping up almost daily. However, aside from the YOLOs and the LOLs, we often come across various terms (usually Latin) and abbreviations within academic writing – as well as other types of formal writing – that although we may think we know, there is always that element of doubt about their meaning and correct usage.
Therefore, this post seeks to provide a list of the most common ones!
Please note that when I say ‘common’, I am referring to the type used in academic or more formal writing – I couldn’t begin to list the never-ending abbreviations used today!
- e.g. – short for exempli gratia meaning ‘for example’. It normally has a full stop after each letter and is used to introduce an example or an incomplete list.
- i.e. – short for id est meaning ‘that is’. It is written with a full stop after each letter and used to rephrase or explain something already said.
- etc. – Et cetera, meaning ‘so on’ or ‘and the rest’, and should only be used when the things omitted from a sentence are not essential to understanding what is said. Combining e.g. and etc. is also incorrect
- et al. – short for et alia, meaning ‘and others’. It is used when citing works with multiple authors.
- ibid. – short for ibidem meaning ‘in the same place’. It is used for citing the same source twice in a row.
- Loc. cit. and op. cit. – loco citato and opera citato meaning ‘in the place cited’ and ‘in the work cited’ are used for non-consecutive citations.
- Cf. – short for confer meaning ‘compare’, and is used to point the reader toward additional reading.
- passim – here and there or everywhere and it shows that an idea appears in various parts of a source.
- vs – versus, used to oppose two different things in competition.
- ad hoc – meaning ‘created’ or ‘done for a particular purpose as necessary’.
- c (or ca) – meaning circa, or approximately.
- (sic) – meaning sic erat scriptum, or ‘so it was written’.
- N.B. – meaning nota bene, or ‘note well’ and is used to emphasise an important point.
This list is by no means exhaustive; however, it gives you the basics. If anyone has any further to add – please feel free to comment!
And one final thought on the subject – whilst there are now many more abbreviations entering our vocabulary, some are merely updates….