Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Initialisms


An abbreviation is a short form of a word or phrase that is used to represent the whole term. For example, etc. for etcetera, Sat for Saturday, Dec for December, Sonar for Sound Navigation and Ranging, UK for United Kingdom, etc. Abbreviations can be of many types; the most common ones are Acronyms and Initialisms.


An acronym is formed from beginning letters, syllables or parts of a word or phrase. It forms a new word and is usually, but not always, in all capital letters. An important point to remember is that acronyms are pronounced as words. It is a subset of abbreviation, i.e., all acronyms are abbreviations, but the reverse is not true.


NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)abbreviation

Scuba (Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus)

Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging)

OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)

ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay)

RAM (Random Access Memory)

LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation)

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization)



An initialism is another type of abbreviation that is made up of the initial letters of the name or phrase. It is different from an acronym as the former is pronounced one letter at a time, i.e., each letter is read separately, and not as a word.


BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation),

CIA (Central Intelligence Agency)

HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language)

IBM (International Business Machines)

DVD (Digital video disc)

BTW (By the way)

UN (United Nations)

USA (United States of America)

CD (Compact Disc)

Note taking Strategies

Here are some tips for effective note taking strategies:

  • Summarize your notes in your own words, not the instructor’s. Remember: your goal is to understand what the professor is saying, not to try to record, exactly, everything he or she says.
  • Mark ideas which the lecturer emphasizes with an arrow or some special symbol.
  • When the teacher looks at his/her notes, pay attention to what they say next.
  • Make your notes your notes. Take advantage of how you learn (visually, orally, or actively) and write/draw your notes according to that style.
  • Consider splitting your notes into two columns keep lecture notes on one side, and write questions that come up during the lecture on the other side. This will ensure that you don’t forget any unclear points or questions that come up during the lecture, and will enable you to associate the answer with the relevant material when you find it later. Also, if you go to office hours, your professor will notice that you were paying attention in class, which will pay off in the long run.
  • Copy what’s written on the blackboard and transparencies, especially the outline. To make sure that you get everything, get in the habit of skipping words like “the” and “a” and make use of shorthand and abbreviations.