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Can I use Al as a reduction of the name Alexander?

Is this reduction clear to native English speakers?

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    You can use whatever Alexander is happy with! (Most British Alexanders seem to be Alex)
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 18, 2013 at 20:21
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    How about "A"? "Al" is a bit formal in some contexts.
    – user19148
    Jan 18, 2013 at 20:25
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    I don't think simply stating "Al" is close enough to get to Alexander without an explanation. If I heard "Al', my first thoughts would be Alfred, Albert and Alan. Add to that Alasdair, Alain, etc.
    – JohnP
    Jan 18, 2013 at 20:51
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    @Carlo_R.: In the U.S. at least, "Al" is not formal at all; it's usually a shortened form of Alan, or some other Al- name.
    – J.R.
    Jan 18, 2013 at 22:27
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    The only way I can make sense of Carlo_R's comment is if he thinks this is talking about an abbreviation in writing, for example in a list of names. But in modern English it is almost unknown to use more than one letter in that context.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 18, 2013 at 23:05

2 Answers 2

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Al is used as a contraction of Alexander, and also of Alan and other names.

Alexander is sometimes contracted to Alex, Lex or Xander.

As a rule, I wouldn't contract any name until I've heard the contraction used by someone else for the person in question — preferably that person themselves. What one person of that name might be happy with, another might detest.

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    Not to mention Sandy and Sasha. Sasha is Russian and I believe Sandy is Scottish, although I know people in the U.S. who use these nicknames. Jan 18, 2013 at 20:43
  • @PeterShor - If you're gonna go Russian, then you also have "Sanya", "Shura", and "Shurik"; "Sasha" and "Shura" are also used for "Aleksandra". Interestingly, "Alex" is usually short for "Alexei", which is a different name altogether.
    – MT_Head
    Jan 18, 2013 at 20:57
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It depends on "where" and "how" you use it.

If you are dealing with someone you know for example, Al might be appropriate, though a bit unusual (normally one would use Alex). I would suggest if this is the case that you ask the person which they prefer.

However, if, let's say, you are writing a book, you would want to avoid using "Al" for Alexander as it's not a very common contraction of the name (so it would "feel strange" to a reader. On the flip side, you're free as a writer to choose to call someone whatever you like ;).

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