Style Quiz #4: Latinate Abbreviations

By Mark Nichol

All but one of the following sentences demonstrate incorrect style for abbreviations from Latin; revise the sentences as necessary:

1. Vehicles are classed in various categories (i.e., cars, trucks, and SUVs).

2. Sections of books classified as adventure, comedy, drama, etc. are organized alphabetically.

3. Various weather conditions produce different types of precipitation (e.g., rain, sleet, snow, etc.).

4. It’s not a question of conservative vs. liberal.

5. Samsung, Nokia, et. al. will do well to take note.

Answers and Explanations

Latinate abbreviations have precise, distinct uses, and though it is useful for writers to understand their differences, writers should consider using the translated equivalents (such as “for example,” “that is,” and, well, “such as”).

1.
Original: Vehicles are classed in various categories (i.e., cars, trucks, and SUVs).
Correct : Vehicles are classed in various categories (e.g., cars, trucks, and SUVs).

The abbreviation i.e. is used introduce a clarification; e.g. is used to introduce examples.

2.
Original: Sections of books classified as adventure, comedy, drama, etc. are organized alphabetically.
Correct : Sections of books classified as adventure, comedy, drama, etc., are organized alphabetically.

The abbreviation etc. is parenthetical and should therefore be framed by a pair of commas when it appears in the middle of a sentence.

3.
Original: Various weather conditions produce different types of precipitation (e.g., rain, sleet, snow, etc.).
Correct : Various weather conditions produce different types of precipitation (e.g., rain, sleet, and snow).

Another correct revision is “Various weather conditions produce different types of precipitation (rain, sleet, snow, etc.).” The abbreviation e.g. is used to introduce a partial list, and etc. indicates an incomplete list, so they are redundant to each other.

4.
Original: It’s not a question of conservative vs. liberal.
Correct : It’s not a question of conservative vs. liberal.

This sentence is correct, though in formal writing, versus is usually spelled out.

5.
Original: Samsung, Nokia, et. al. will do well to take note.
Correct : Samsung, Nokia, et al. will do well to take note.

In the phrase et al., al. is an abbreviation of alia, but et is a full word and should not be followed by a period.

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4 Responses to “Style Quiz #4: Latinate Abbreviations”

  • venqax

    Number 4 presents an additional opportunity for a tip. While the Latin “versus” is abbreviated vs. in most cases, as in the example, in legal cases the proper abbreviation for the same word is simply v. So the case pronounced as Smith versus Jones* (or simply Smith vee Jones) is written Smith v. Jones. You do see it written Smith vs. Jones sometimes, even in publications that should know better, but the simple v. is correct.

    *In the UK and Commonwealth countries the same written convention is used– Smith v. Jones— but the v. is usually spoken as simply “and” or “against”– e.g., Smith v. Jones is said, “Smith and Jones” or “Smith against Jones”.

  • Petra

    Regarding 4, versus, it is worth noting that in the British English standard, the proper abbreviation is v., not vs. The BE usage is still sufficiently entrenched in education, publishing, etc., that it jars on the ear of many who take care with their language, when they see or hear the vs. abbreviation.
    The USE usage is slowly making itself felt in the B.E. world, largely through throw-away reportage and the echo chamber of the Internet.
    Yet, the abbreviation v. remains deeply rooted, both formally in legal English and legal reporting, and informally in everyday English, such that one sees it displayed on the country and village green cricket scoreboards: Middlesex v. Surrey, and so on.

  • Dale A. Wood

    This example sentence has a horrid example (ever expanding on this planet) of people’s not knowing the difference between a noun and a verb, and not caring, either:
    1. “Vehicles are classed in various categories (i.e., cars, trucks, and SUVs).” This is not a verb: “to class”. The word class is either a noun or an adjective. The associated verb is “to classify”.
    E.g. “Numbers are classified into the integers, rational numbers, and irrational numbers.”
    Also, it is irrational not to live your life as a “class act” and to know which words are classified into different parts of speech. It is not rational not to know the differences between nouns and verbs, verbs and adverbs, adverbs and adjectives, and adjectives and nouns.

    “To categorize” is an ugly piece of bureaucratese. We already have the verbs “to classify”, “to arrange into sets”, “to divide into categories”. To use prepositional phrases as adverbs is a quite handy way to specify the meaning of a verb. Verbs do not have to be strictly one-word items.

    For a long time, I have enjoyed arranging things into sets, or assorting them into categories, or to classify them in some way. It is definitely NOT necessary to “categorize” or “class” them.
    To “class things” reminds me of farmers who “sex chickens”.

  • venqax

    I agree that “class” is not a verb. I wouldn’t classify it, however, with sexing chickens. In the latter case “to sex” is a term of art specific to poultry farming and therefore, I think, legitimate. There is no one-word alternative, as there is with the extant and perfectly good verb, “to classify.” Compare “candling eggs” as opposed to the alternative, “shining a light on eggs to determine their state of embryonic development.”

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