Can you create an abbreviation for any word that has no commonly accepted abbreviation simply by dropping some or all the vowels (i.e., restore: rstr or restr; replace: rplc or replc)?

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    You may find this answer useful.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Apr 9, 2013 at 16:59
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    One general rule is to make the abbreviation shorter than what it abbreviates. This would seem to be obvious, but pronunciation isn't often taken into account. Where I live there is a university called Western Washington University (/'wɛstərn'wɔʃɪŋtənyunə'vərsəti/ -- 9 syllables); the canonic abbreviation is WWU. That looks short, but it's got 7 syllables, and is significantly more difficult to pronounce: /'dəbəlyu'dəbəlyu'yu/; most people just say /'wɛstərn/, ignoring the abbreviation. I usually pronounce it /'wuwu/. Apr 9, 2013 at 17:38
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    Would those examples you cite in your question be full-fledged abbreviations? Or would they merely be considered shorthand? (By the way, if I saw those abbreviations sans any context, I'd probably guess they stood for restroom and replica respectively.) @JohnLawler: As for your example, I think WWU works well for, say, a box score, or an address on an envelope, but I agree that it would be unwieldy to say in its pronounced form.
    – J.R.
    Apr 9, 2013 at 19:02
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    The very funny Mitch Hedberg once said: "If you don't know how to abbreviate a word, just start spelling it... then quit!" Apr 9, 2013 at 21:42
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    I'd like to respond to an implication that I think hasn't been addressed. It seems to me at least part of what's being asked here is whether it's allowed to create new abbreviations. If that is part of the question here, the answer is, yes, it's allowed. Is it a good idea? In most cases, no. As Mynamite said, you have to be clear. Generally there's little value in inventing abbreviations. What is accomplished by doing so? If communication would be improved by the abbreviation, you can bet the abbreviation already exists. If it doesn't yet exist, it probably shouldn't. Apr 10, 2013 at 1:39

1 Answer 1


Well, of course you can. Dropping vowels is as much an acceptable way of forming abbreviations as dropping consonants.

I believe your question really is more, "Is this a way to create defensible/allowable/usable abbreviations?"

Defensible? To whom? Generally speaking, if you have not seen the abbreviation before you use it you are treading on the thin ice that is also trodden upon by innovators of neologisms. This is not for the weak of heart.

Allowable? By whom? If it's not in a dictionary it's probably not going to be welcomed with open arms by your reader unless the abbreviation is very useful and obvious in meaning. Remember that the purpose of an abbreviation is to communicate clearly using less letters.

Usable? Of course it's usable. But it may be of only marginal (or even negative) utility if the abbreviation obscures meaning.

There is little need for abbreviations in writing meant to be read, and there is no need at all for abbreviations that are, N.B., obscure.

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    There is a lot of need in technical writing meant to be read: Chemistry especially gets a bit long winded without the abv.
    – mgb
    May 10, 2013 at 12:44

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