The difference between acronyms and abbreviations

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This I only learned today thanks to Jo Baldwin, one of my readers, who pointed it out on my ‘Internet Acronyms’ article.

Jo’s comment read:

Your list of “acronyms” is actually a list of abbreviations. Acronyms are abbreviations that can be pronounced as words. NATO is a perfect example. UN however is never pronounced as “UN” so it remains an abbreviation. I am keeping the list of abbreviations though; they’ll come in handy.
You’re not alone though, for I fear “acronym” will be going the way of “decimate”, which is more and more commonly used today to mean (the loss of) a huge number whereas originally it was meant to mean one out of ten would be meeting his demise.

So that means that NATO is an acronym but WTO is an abbreviation. And ASAP would be either an acronym or an abbreviation depending on how you pronounce it. I am sure there is a rule about how to pronounce it but I won’t be getting into that here.

Thank you so much Jo! I love learning things like this.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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