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The word “committee” is a long and tedious one to type or write; I can easily understand the motivation to invent an abbreviation.

When and why, though, did “ctte” become popular? What alternatives were competing with it before it became popular?

Moreover, what principle is at work, if any, in the choice of letters to drop? Most abbreviations drop a consecutive sequence of letters, either in the middle (“international” → “int'l”), or at the end ("regarding” → “re.”). This is obviously not the case for “committee” → “ctte”, so how did it come about?

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    I have to say, I've served on many committees, and often been secretary or parliamentarian, but I don't think I've come across ctte. enough to call it "popular." They're often abbreviated cmte., and the basic reason for that I imagine is that it is recognizable in context and less ambiguous than comm., which could be short for things like commission, commercial, or communications.
    – choster
    Dec 4, 2014 at 1:00
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    Related: What does “c'tee” mean?
    – Daniel
    Dec 4, 2014 at 3:28

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I am not aware that "ctte" is used to abbreviate "committee" actually. Here

http://www.allacronyms.com/committee/abbreviated

you can find a few other abbreviations for it that do appear to be more popular.

There are some conventions for forming abbreviations here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbreviation#Style_conventions_in_English

but, as noted there, there are no official rules, as far as I am aware.

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