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In Swedish, it's common to replace the periods with spaces when using an abbreviation. Is this valid in English? Personally, I think this approach is easier to use and looks better in text (and all problems with multiple periods magically disappear). Of course, it doesn't work in all situations, but still.

Some examples to further illustrate my question:

That's a car, i e you can drive it.

There are many things you cannot do, e g carry a gun on a public street.

What is that? It's a p v t!

I made the last one up, by the way, if someone didn't notice.

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Whether or not it's valid, it's foreign enough that I (an American who speaks only English and Spanish) had to pause to look back and figure out what was going on. It took about 5 to 6 times of glancing at them before I no longer slowed down upon reaching the acronyms. –  snumpy May 13 '11 at 15:33
    
Very similar: Is it OK to drop the periods in abbreviations? –  MrHen May 13 '11 at 17:46
    
Are you sure the dots are replaced by spaces in Swedish, or just dropped out? –  Kris Dec 19 '11 at 11:54
    
The basic rule is to end the abbreviated words with a dot, like this: "e.g.", however it is allowed to omitted the dots, with the condition that one put spaces between the letters. One can say that the dots may be omitted, but then a space has to take it's place, so depending on how accurate one wants to be, both descriptions are equally good (or bad). –  Shathur Dec 19 '11 at 13:14
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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Sigh. There are no easy answers, as my numerous edits would attest had you been with me whilst writing an answer.

Ultimately the form of such abbreviations, initializations, and acronyms are determined by common usage (whether it be informal or formal) and style guides (e.g., newspapers, journals, magazines, etc.), and one will almost always find an exception to any "prescribed rule".

Just look at these examples to see what I mean (from an American English perspective):

  • exampli gratis is usually written e.g., (including the comma.)
  • id est is almost always written i.e., (again, including the comma.)
  • nota bene is usually written NB, but also often written N.B.
  • et cetera is always written etc., unless one is being very informal, in which case etc is acceptable.

Units and time get no love either:

  • ante meridian can be written in myriad manners: a, am, a.m., A, AM, A.M. and can often be written without an intervening space, e.g.: 12:00a, 12:00am and 12:00 a.m. are all seen.
  • Foot or Feet is written ft sometimes with and without the period: I need a 12ft board. Or, I need a 12 ft. board.
  • Each is often written with a period (but occasionally without): They were $5 ea., which was too much, in my opinion.

Acronyms can vary widely:

  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is written NASA or N.A.S.A. The former is more common, but a style guide may enforce the latter.
  • But United States of America is written USA and U.S.A. commonly; a style guide may dictate the latter.
  • And some simply become regular words: sonar, radar, etc.

Not even people get respect all the time:

  • Doctor will most often be written Dr., as in Dr. Franklin. (But don't be surprised to see Dr Franklin either.)
  • Mister follows the same pattern: Mr. Franklin and Mr Franklin are both used, though the former is more common.
  • When abbreviating the first name, it is common to use a period: B. Franklin, but sometimes B Franklin.

One thing is nearly universal, however: if the period is omitted, the letters are written without intervening spaces. It would be extremely rare to see e g, i e, N A S A, D r, a m, A S A P. If spaces are used, it is usually in conjunction with the period: A. M., e. g., i. e., A. S. A. P.

There is, unfortunately, no one rule that fits every case where a word or phrase is shortened; the only real option is to follow common usage, or the style guide if one is present.

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Appreviations which are not truncations are generally not give a dot in British English. Hence, Dr X, Mr X, Mrs X Leut X, but Col. X. Compare the languages Lat. (with dot) and Gk (without). –  TRiG May 23 '11 at 16:12
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I don't know if it's proper, but it would be more common in English to put the letters together if you drop the periods. Like so:

That's a car, ie you can drive it

There are many things you cannot do, eg carry a gun on a public street.

What is that? It's a pvt!

Quick! Call NASA ASAP!

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I like the last example. ^^ –  Shathur May 16 '11 at 8:04
    
@Shathur: Except for the need for capslock. –  Kris Dec 19 '11 at 11:53
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The short version is: no. The dot may or may not be present, depending on the stylistic preferences of the writer, but it would be idiosyncratic to insert spaces in place of the dots (as opposed to in addition, which is rare, but not unheard of).

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