Abbreviations

Abbreviations can be confusing for even the most experienced writers.

Abbreviations used with time

The two abbreviations used with time are A.M. (or a.m.) and P.M. (or p.m.).  A.M. is an abbreviation for “ante meridiem” which is Latin for “before noon.”  P.M. is an abbreviation for “post meridiem” which is Latin for “after noon.”  The letters can be written in either lower-case or upper-case as long as the writer consistently chooses the same case.

Abbreviations used with dates

There are four abbreviations that are used with dates: B.C., A.D., B.C.E., and C.E.  B.C. is an abbreviation of “before Christ,” although many scholars now replace it with B.C.E. which is an abbreviation of “before the common era” and considered to be more politically correct.  Both B.C. and B.C.E. should be written after the number.

Ex: Elizabeth wrote her term paper on Cleopatra’s reign, beginning with her ascension to the throne in 51 B.C.

OR

Elizabeth wrote her term paper on Cleopatra’s reign, beginning with her ascension to the throne in 51 B.C.E.

A.D. is an abbreviation for “anno Domini” which means “year of our Lord” and is similarly replaced with C.E. which is an abbreviation for “common era.”  A.D. should be written before the number, C.E. should be written after the number.

Ex: Today in class, Professor Jones lectured about Nero’s choice to commit suicide in A.D. 68.

OR

Today in class, Professor Jones lectured about Nero’s choice to commit suicide in 68 C.E.

Latin Abbreviations

These Latin abbreviations are most frequently seen in citations for research papers.  Most grammar books suggest limited use of them.

e.g.: an abbreviation of “exempli gratia” which means “for example”

Ex: Liberal arts colleges can be the perfect setting for students interested in majoring in two completely unrelated topics (e.g. Russian and mathematics).

i.e.: an abbreviation of “id est” which means “that is”

Ex: It’s always difficult to wake up for those classes that start at the crack of dawn (i.e. 8 a.m.).

n.b.: an abbreviation of “nota bene” which means “note well”

Ex:

etc.: an abbreviation of “et cetera” which means “and so forth”

Ex: At the beginning of every semester, I usually spend hundreds of dollars at the campus bookstore on textbooks, binders, pencils, etc.

et al.: an abbreviation of “et alii” which means “and others”

Ex: Our course textbook was edited by Smith, Henderson, Richards, Carter, and Williams. → Our course textbook was edited by Smith et al.