Abbreviations, acronyms and acronyms
This post clarifies the difference between abbreviations, acronyms and acronyms, and how to write them well.
Abbreviations, acronyms, and acronyms are graphic abbreviations, or abbreviated writing forms of one or more words. However, different spelling rules apply to each one; to differentiate them it is necessary to ask: how do I read this abbreviation?
In these examples:
“We are located on Av. 6th of December"
“Several fruits have vitamin C, for example: orange, strawberry, papaya, etc. ”
we read " av ." as avenue, we don't spell it; likewise, we read “etc.” as etcetera, before "e, te, ce". When —as in these cases— when reading the abbreviation we say the complete word or expression, they are abbreviations.
Abbreviations are formed by removing multiple letters from a word or complex expression. Other common examples are: p . (page) , Mrs. (mrs.), ed . (publisher), art. (article), lic. (graduate), etc.
Abbreviations are written with a period and lowercase. Only when the complete word is a proper noun is the abbreviation capitalized, as is the case with a. C. (before Christ). They are also marked if the complete word has a tilde and they are written in the plural: pages. (pages)
When we keep only one letter of the abbreviated word, the plural is formed by doubling that word, like this: Armed Forces, FF. AA.; United States, USA
Instead, look at what happens when we read this other type of abbreviation:
The UASB was established in Ecuador in 1992.
There are several NGOs in the country.
In the first case, we read “ u, a, ese, be”, but not “Simón Bolívar Andean University”; likewise, we spell NGO and do not say “non-governmental organization”. These are the acronyms, which are obtained by joining the initials of the words of a complex expression: HIV (h uman immunodeficiency v irus), GAD (decentralized autonomous government) OAS (O rganization of A merican States), SRI (Internal Revenue Service), etc.
Acronyms are written in capital letters —even if the expression they represent is a common name, as in the case of HIV—, without a period or space between each letter. The plural is not marked with a letter that at the end; we say, therefore: “some PCs” and “the DVDs”, rather than “some PCs” or “the DVDs”.
Finally, notice what happens when we read these examples:
I would like to work as an interpreter at the UN.
SMEs are an important engine of the national economy.
Both in the case of the UN (United Nations Organization) and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), we pronounce them naturally in Spanish, like any other word. These are a special type of initials called acronyms.
Depending on usage and familiarity, some acronyms have been lexicalized, that is, they are considered to be just another Spanish word. In these cases, if they are proper names, they are written only with an initial capital letter if they have more than four letters. Therefore, we write UN with capital letters but as proper names to Fundéu (Urgent Spanish Foundation) , Senescyt (Secretariat of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation) and Mipro (Ministry of Industries and Productivity).
In the case of common names, we write them in lower case and the letter ese is used to mark the plural, if applicable: laser, UFOs, aids, etc.
Check these Fundéu entries for more information on the writing of abbreviations, and on the expression of initials and acronyms.