Spell it out. Pls. Thx.

While working on some family history research today while writing an article I was frustrated by abbreviations that I find online and in books. So, here comes my soapbox for the day. Please spell out the words. Isn’t your family history important enough to do that? If someone is looking for ancestors in a specific state but your abbreviation makes them think it’s the wrong state, you may have just missed out on meeting the person who has the family bible.

  • NE is the postal abbreviation for Nebraska, not Nevada 
  • AK is the postal abbreviation for Alaska, not Arkansas
  • Do you mean city or county when you state “cty” and this does cause geographic angst.
  • Do you and whoever reads your material in the future know the difference between ms, mss, Miss? [In my world, mss is an abbreviation for manuscript; ms is the postal abbreviation for the state of Mississippi, not Massachusetts; and Miss is a designation for a a non-married female]
  • In the rest of my world, b mean born, not baptized. Bap could mean baptized or the person is a Baptist.
  • Did you mean buried when you said b 8 May 1901? Or did that mean born? Heck, I think those are very different things. 
  • Does bp mean birthplace, baptized, or that an ancestor owned stock in a certain fuel company?
  • Does an M or m mean married, male or maybe mad at you?
  • b by MD? Born by Maryland? A doctor was at the birth? Is MD an abbreviation for someone’s name such as Mary Dill, Marvin Dougherty? 
  • Is Margt an abbreviation for Margaret, Margaretta, or Margaretha? 
  • What about M. Jos. Lecompte? Marie Josephine? Monsieur Joseph? 

All this said, if you are transcribing something you definitely need to do that the way something was written. In that case, what you see is what you get. You might add an interpretation in brackets if you have some other knowledge that makes this reliable. [Margaretta?].

You could put a key to abbreviations on your website or in your book or you could avoid abbreviations whenever possible. It’s only a few more keystrokes.

FYI, it’s not TMI to spell out words. BTW, it’s just helping each other. FWIW, remind me if I don’t explain an abbreviation. 1ce you do it, it’s easy.  2day is OK.

Yes, I do abbreviate words at time, but I am going to strive to be a better non-abbreviator in 2012. 2013? Who knows. ROTFL.

© 2012 – 2014, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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6 comments on “Spell it out. Pls. Thx.

  1. Thanks so much – my Legacy Users Group just had this discussion; now I can give them an authority for my position! And as to the texting society, this is about research. The last time I checked you could not turn in research papers in text format.

  2. Great points, Paula! Before the post office had the standardized 2 letter abbreviations, Nebraska was often abbreviated as NB. I get so frustrated when finding my Nebraska ancestors indexed in Ancestry.com records as having been born in New Brunswick.

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