Commonly Used (and Misused) Latinate Abbreviations in American English

Have you mastered these everyday abbreviations?

Latinate abbreviations (i.e., abbreviations of Latin expressions used in English) can serve as useful tools to enhance our writing. Or, if improperly used, they can detract from our writing—and reflect poorly on the writer. Here are some of the most common Latinate abbreviations, their meanings, and notes on their usage. Notice in particular the placement of the periods.

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et cetera

Et cetera, abbreviated etc., means “and so forth” (literally, “and others of the same kind”). Note three things about this abbreviation: (1) It is etc., not ect., and it is not pronounced eck-cetera; (2) It is not “and etc.,” (which would literally be “and and so forth”—that’s redundant); and (3) etc. should be used sparingly in formal writing because it’s a vague term that can make the writer seem lazy—it places the burden on the reader to imagine what specifically the writer is referring to.

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exempli grata

Exempli grata, abbreviated e.g., means “for example.” Note three things about its use: (1) it is always followed by a comma[1]: The vendor on the corner is selling flowers for Mother’s Day (e.g., red and yellow roses and white and pink carnations); (2) in formal writing, it should be used in parenthetical statements (as in the previous sentence). In the main text it is better to use words like “such as” or “for example”; (3) be careful not to confuse it with i.e., which means something quite different. Continue reading “Commonly Used (and Misused) Latinate Abbreviations in American English”

How to Write Academic Degree Titles

Do you know how to correctly write college degree titles?

The landing gear is down on another academic year as students and faculty make their final approach toward the graduation runway. Many soon-to-be newly minted grads are now wading into the sometimes turbulent, often murky, and always anxiety-producing waters of job hunting.

So let’s think about how to correctly write academic degree titles on résumés, cover letters, celebration invitations, and LinkedIn profiles. This can be confusing, and in my nearly twenty years in higher education—as a counselor, instructor, administrator, and hiring manager—I’ve seen many resumes and applications where the writer apparently didn’t know how to correctly indicate his or her own degree. Stumbling over something so basic may not go over well with prospective employers. It never hurts to get this right. Continue reading “How to Write Academic Degree Titles”

Poetic License? But Why?

Bad grammar ruined this popular Christian song (for me).

Standard English took a blow below the belt with the rise of rock ’n’ roll music, and it was only a matter of time before the assault on the mother tongue would be sanctified by Christian artists writing Jesus Music.

I was no grammar snob as a teenager and young adult, and neither was I a grammar slob. But I lived for the rock ’n’ roll music of Randy Stonehill, Daniel Amos, and other pioneers of the Christian rock genre. I slapped on my Pioneer stereo headphones, cranked up the volume, and blew out my eardrums on a regular basis to songs like Continue reading “Poetic License? But Why?”

It Was a Great Series Irregardless

Should we ever use “irregardless”?

cubs-logoCongratulations to the Chicago Cubs for breaking their 108-year World Series championship drought. I’m an LA Dodgers fan, but I appreciate the Cubs’ achievement and give them kudos for it. It was a great Series, in which the Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in seven games.

Early in the deciding seventh game two nights ago, announcer Joe Buck used the word irregardless. I heard him and made mental note of it because irregardless is not accepted English usage, something well known to language mavens. I didn’t think any more of it—after all, this was a live, unscripted television broadcast, and even the most scrupulous grammar police can slip up on occasion. But evidently it sorely bothered a lot of folk, who took to social media to complain. Merriam-Webster Online even joined the fray with a supercilious attempt to put word nerds in their place by asserting that irregardless is in fact a word and is in the dictionary. Here’s a line from their article: “Irregardless last night reared its monstrous head, and, bellowing its unspeakable name, caused a nation of terror-stricken waifs to whimper and mewl.”[1] Continue reading “It Was a Great Series Irregardless”

Does the Sportscaster Commentate?

Is that acceptable English usage?

Track RacersYesterday while watching the Olympics I heard the announcer say that a colleague would be joining him to “commentate” during an upcoming event. Is commentate a word? Or is it just another sportscaster-created back-formation,[1] a jargon word that needlessly turns commentator into a verb? I wasn’t sure, so I had to look it up. (Aren’t you glad some people worry about these things so you don’t have to?) Here’s what I discovered.

Continue reading “Does the Sportscaster Commentate?”

Clippings: How to Spell Words We Commonly Shorten

Impress your friends and amaze your family.

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My name is … Mick?

Speakers of English tend to shorten or truncate longer words, both in writing and speaking. That’s the way we are; it’s normal. We call such truncated words clippings. Sometimes we drop the initial syllable or syllables. Examples are airplaneplane; hamburgerburger; and telephone → phone.[1] When we drop the ending syllable or syllables, we have, for example, popular pop; publicpub; and techniciantech.[2] Occasionally, we have both the beginning and the ending of the word dropped, leaving us with influenzaflu; and refrigeratorfrig. Wait. Frig? Get me a cold one from the frig? Hmmm. More on that one below.

When it comes to writing clipped words, how do we spell them? Here’s the general principle: We most often spell a clipped word as it sounds, not necessarily as a sliced off version of the longer original. Occasionally, therefore, the spelling will be a little different. Here are three common examples: favorite, microphone, and refrigerator. Continue reading “Clippings: How to Spell Words We Commonly Shorten”

My Choice for President? It’s a Hobson’s Choice.

An unpolitical reflection on a most appropriate term.

SONY DSCI’ve always counted it both a privilege and a duty to exercise my constitutional right to vote, and this November will be my eleventh presidential election. While I have typically voted for my party’s official candidate, I have been known to diverge from party affiliations when it seemed appropriate. Often the choice seemed a no-brainer: one candidate clearly stood for my cherished ideals—which, in my mind, were American ideals.

Election Choices

The choice in my first election, in 1976, was . . . well, let me say, a little difficult. There was Jimmy Carter, the affable peanut farmer from Georgia and upstart candidate of the Democratic Party, and there was the staid and dependable but uninspiring incumbent, Gerald Ford, the unfortunate soul who inherited the job two years before after the unprecedented mid-term resignation of his embattled predecessor, Richard “I Am Not a Crook” Nixon. Mr. Carter—truly a nice man—lasted one term and thankfully gave way to his successor, who in my exceedingly humble opinion was one of our nation’s greatest presidents, Ronald Reagan.[1] Continue reading “My Choice for President? It’s a Hobson’s Choice.”