When people see an abbreviation, many refer to it as an acronym, thinking they mean the same thing. They don’t.
You all know what an abbreviation is. An acronym is also an abbreviation—but one that is pronounced as a word:
Snafu ( it lost the caps when it became a common word)
MOMA in New York and LACMA in Los Angeles
You’d never say “Oosuh” or “Yoosuh,” so USA is not an acronym, just an abbreviation.
All acronyms are abbreviations, but not all abbreviations are acronyms.
(If you’re not sure what snafu and fubar stand for, look them up in your online dictionary; there you will discover the slightly off-color meanings.)
I haven’t posted in a while because I spent the last 10 days having a houseful of guests including our two precious grandchildren. We spent the time hitting some of the cultural highlights, including exhibits on Pompeii, Byzantium, dinosaurs, gems and minerals, and a stellar art exhibit at the LA County Museum, entitled “From Van Gogh to Kandinsky,” one I consider perhaps the best show LACMA has ever mounted.
Looking at what I titled this post and my mentioning of LACMA reminded me how often I hear people confuse abbreviations with acronyms. All acronyms are abbreviations, but not all abbreviations are acronyms. Acronyms are abbreviations pronounced like words: snafu. fubar, NASA, ASAP, laser, LSAT and GMAT, among others.
As I’ve mentioned before, an acronym is not a synonym for an abbreviation. All acronyms are abbreviations, but not all abbreviations are acronyms.
NASA is an acronym—because we pronounce it as a word.
PIN is also an acronym. (Don’t say “PIN number.” That’s redundant.)
USA is not an acronym because we don’t pronounce it as a word; we say each letter.
To make acronyms plural, just add a lowercase s: All vehicles have PINs. You don’t need an apostrophe before that s. We do write about the Oakland A’s, only because it would look like the word “As” if we didn’t.
When you use “Mr.” you are referring to a man, but the word does not reveal his marital status. The title “Ms.” (originally without a period because it was not an abbreviation of another word) was coined in the 1960s to be the female equivalent of “Mr.” Until then, women were referred to as “Mrs.” if they were married, widowed or divorced, or “Miss” if they were unmarried females of any age. Why should women have to let you know their marital status? It’s irrelevant.
If, however, a woman lets you know she prefers to be called “Miss” or “Mrs.,” do her that courtesy.