An acronym is a pronounceable word formed from the first letter (or first few letters) of each word in a phrase or title. Sometimes, the newly combined letters create a new word that becomes a part of everyday language.
An example of this is "radar." You might talk about local police using their radar guns to catch speeders without even considering its original full form, Radio Detection and Ranging. Using shortened forms of words or phrases can speed up communication. Explore this useful shorthand with the examples of acronyms below.
Let's start off by examining some popular acronyms and their meaning, including how they are used in example sentences. We're likely to see them in the news and even use them in our everyday language. Radar and taser are prime examples of acronyms that are now commonly accepted as words.
AWOL - Absent Without Official Leave (or Absent Without Leave)
I don't know where he went. He's totally AWOL.
CTA - Call to action
Don't forget to include a CTA at the end of your blog.
ESL - English as a Second Language
Mary moved to Japan to teach ESL to second graders.
GMO - Genetically modified organism
I only buy organic food free from GMOs.
IMAX - Image Maximum
We saw MI:6 in the local IMAX theatre.
LASER - Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation
Our cat loves to chase a little red LASER beam.
NATO - The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Let's hope NATO always remains intact.
RADAR - Radio Detection and Ranging
The police officer used RADAR to catch them speeding.
RSVP - In French: Répondez, s'il vous plaît (In English: Answer, please)
Please RSVP to our barbecue by Friday, July 17th.
SCUBA - Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus
We gathered our SCUBA gear and dove into the Atlantic.
SEO - Search engine optimization
Make sure your latest blog post has all the important SEO elements.
SWAT - Special Weapons and Tactics
The Los Angeles Police Department dispatched their SWAT team.
TASER - Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle
She hit the attacker with her TASER.
UNICEF - The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund
UNICEF appointed a new chairman of the board.
WASP - White Anglo-Saxon Protestant
Many citizens in the Colonial Era were WASPs.
With interactions happening on email, text, Facebook, Instagram, and more, internet acronyms are a part of everyday language. Given our propensity to send quick, off-the-cuff text messages or post short, fun tweets, the grammar rules pertaining to acronyms and capitalization generally fly out the window.
The 15 examples below follow the proper rules for capitalization, but the next time your friend texts you "IDK," you're likely to see a simple "idk."
BAE - Before anyone else
He's my new BAE.
BFF - Best friend(s) forever
She'll always be my BFF.
BTW - By the way
BTW dinner is in the fridge.
FOMO - Fear of missing out
I'm taking this trip because I have a major case of FOMO.
GTG - Got to go
ICYMI - In case you missed it
ICYMI, MI-6 was amazing.
IDC - I don't care
Yes, I heard you and IDC.
IDK - I don't know
IDK where the dog's leash is.
IMHO - In my humble opinion
IMHO, you did the right thing.
IMO - In my opinion
IMO, he's not a very nice person.
IRL - In real life
Yes, I went to Ireland IRL!
NM - Not much
NM, I'm pretty bored.
NVM - Nevermind
NVM, I found it.
OMW - On my way
OMW! Fire up the barbecue!
YOLO - You only live once
You better go on that trip. YOLO!
Technically speaking, you should capitalize all the letters in acronyms, but there are exceptions. Most informal acronyms, such as text speak, or acronyms that are now considered words, such as radar, don't adhere to this grammar rule.
For example, when you're texting a friend to let them know you'll be right back, you don't usually type "BRB. I had to run down to the grocery store." You're more likely to write something like "brb. running to the store."
However, when writing in a professional capacity, say, for a school essay or a press release, you always want to write out the full version of the term when you first mention it. Then you should indicate the acronym in parentheses immediately afterward.
For example: "Every press release must conclude with a Call to Action (CTA). There are a few important elements to include in your CTA…" As long as you've defined the acronym "CTA" in its first instance, you can simply use the acronym in every other instance after that.
When spoken, some acronyms can be pronounced as if there were regular words, like scuba, while other acronyms are pronounced as their individual letters, like RSVP. The latter are technically known as initialisms, but they fall under the umbrella of acronyms.
Hopefully, these examples of acronyms demonstrate how a few, well-chosen letters can be a quick way to communicate. Isn't "ICYMI" a lot easier to email or text than "in case you missed it"?
In a digital age where everyone multitasks through their computer screens, it's nice to have an adopted set of acronyms that most people know. If not, a quick Google search will tell you what your friend meant when she said she has "FOMO."
If any of this has made you wonder how abbreviations play into the world of acronyms, read up on the difference between the two and how they relate to initialisms.