Is there a rule for creating abbreviations for words that have none? For example, I would like to abbreviate the street name "Briannas Nook" into three letters for use in our office. My thought would be to take the first letter from each syllable "B"ri "A"n "N"as "Nook

This gives us 4 letters, but coincidentally the last two are both N's so I would just drop one and end up with "BAN". I think this seems logical, but not sure if it follows any rules. We currently have someone in the office who thinks the name should be abbreviated "BRN".

Any help would be appreciated - thank you!

  • I don't think there's a general rule because your abbreviations have to be different to each other. Ensuring this is so depends upon the other words that you want to abbreviate.
    – Chris M
    Mar 2, 2017 at 15:22
  • If it's a street name you that you'll put on official documents or be addressed at, the postal service in your country will have opinions about what you can and can't abbreviate, and how. In the U.S., for example, there is no way Briannas can be abbreviated at all in a standard fashion. If you're just referring to internal designations, then you can choose whatever you like, except FCUK is taken.
    – choster
    Mar 2, 2017 at 16:04
  • I'd opt for B.Nook if nothing else a reader or visitor would stand a better chance of guessing what the abbreviation stands for. If you really wanted to shorten it further then B.NK.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 2, 2017 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


There is no rule for creating abbreviations. Almost all abbreviations are informal. You should have a vote on it, and do what the majority wants. It's as simple as that.

It's not as if your abbreviation is going to affect the whole world. Your only priority is to choose something that sounds good to you. Perhaps BANN is better than BAN, because the latter has connotations of not being allowed to do something.

However, it's not my call. If you don't think that BAN will confuse people, then there's no issue.


Any rule you come up with will have to be broken as your collection of abbreviations grows, because you will end up with duplicates. Bear and Noose Alley would also become BAN in your system (Initial letters of first three syllables).

The same goes for your colleage's proposal (First two letters of the first word, first letter of the second word).

In general, taking a couple of consecutive letters of a word is common, as is taking the first letters of words. I have not often encountered abbreviations based on syllables and it feels counter-intuitive to me.

When the number of letters in an abbreviation may vary, often the first letters of words are used (sometime leaving out articles), as in NATO, CIA, or HIV.

When the number of letters is fixed, often some consecutive letters are picked, but exceptions are used to avoid doubles.

For instance, in Formula 1, drivers are given a three-letter abbreviation to identify them, often simply the first three letters of their family name:

HAM -> Hamilton
ROS -> Rosberg
VER -> Vergne


VES -> Verstappen

Similarly, airports are designated by three-letter abbreviations, sometimes but not always based on the first letters of their name or location:

AMS -> Amsterdam
LEH -> Le Havre
PAG -> Pagadian

On the other hand, many of those codes are recognisable but don't follow that simple rule:

PAC -> Panama City

Some seem plain weird:

SKG -> Thessaloniki (Makedonia Airport, not Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen)

And some follow your rule:

PHC -> Port Harcourt

See this link for more: http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/IATA_Codes/IATA_Code_A.htm

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