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A brief way of writing a word or a phrase that could also be written out in full, using only the letters of the alphabet and possibly full stops. We usually write abbreviations without full stops in British English. Full stops are normal in American English.

Examples are Dr (US Dr.) for Doctor, Prof (US Prof.) for Professor and Capt (US Capt.) for Captain.

An abbreviation does not normally have a distinct pronunciation of its own: we pronounce Dr as ‘Doctor’ and e.g. as ‘for example’.

Some abbreviations are made from the first letters of several words.

Examples are:

  • The BBC = the British Broadcasting Corporation
  • UNESCO = United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

Some initial-letter abbreviations are pronounced letter by letter (e.g. the BBC). Others are pronounced like words (e.g. UNICEF) – these are often called acronyms.

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