Because It’s Korrect

Christmas, 2005 / No. 15

A reader recently asked Taddle Creek why it insists on the continued use of periods with initialisms. The simple answer is: because initialisms, by definition, are comprised of initials, which by all the rules of good grammar, properly take periods. Taddle Creek recognizes that most publications today have chosen to disregard the use of periods in initialisms such as “A.T.M.,” “C.I.A.,” and the like, owing to the belief that “TTC” looks cleaner and more attractive than “T.T.C.” Taddle Creek thinks “hymenium” looks better spelled as “hydrofoil,” but would never dream of allowing such personal preference to get in the way of proper spelling and grammar. Plus, when one writes “TTC” it looks as though they are yelling the word “tuhca,” which isn’t even a word, at least not in English. Thus, Taddle Creek prefers to err on the side of correctness, choosing the path it seems only the most credible of magazines follow today, which is to continue the age-old practice of using periods with initialisms.

And for the record, the magazine feels, with the proper kerning, “T.T.C.” is just as attractive as “TTC,” if not more so. Though Taddle Creek has a great love for aesthetics, its first love is proper grammar. Those who put aesthetics first are probably more likely also to spell “E-mail” without a hyphen. Perish the thought.

Some argue Taddle Creek should at least draw the line at using periods in initialisms containing an ampersand, such as R. & B. Taddle Creek does not see what difference an ampersand makes. To close up “rhythm and blues” as “R&B” would put the magazine in the same camp as those who use no periods at all. Go with periods or go home, Taddle Creek says.

Taddle Creek does take a different tack with acronyms, however, which those who worry so much about how their words look will probably find more agreeable. (For those unclear on the difference, in an initialism, each letter must be pronounced separately, while an acronym can be pronounced as a word. Both differ from an abbreviation, which is usually a shortened form of a single word.) While some acronyms, such as “radar” and “laser,” have long become words in their own right, others, such as “NASA” and “AIDS,” have not. Because an acronym can be pronounced as a word, it does not require periods to guide the reader through the correct pronunciation. But instead of simply writing “NASA” and falling into the yelling trap, Taddle Creek sets its acronyms in small caps, as seen above. Whose words don’t look good now?

And just to quell any further argument, though the magazine generally avoids abbreviations, were it ever to abbreviate “January,” “inch,” or “Street,” it would use periods, resulting in “Jan.,” “in.,” and “St.” Not that it would ever do that.

There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Taddle Creek does not use periods in radio or television station call letters (CBC, CIUT, NBC), nor does it use them for media formats and files, such as LP, CD, MP3, and EXE, though it has considered it in both cases. Media format acronyms, however—JPEG, TIFF, and the like—are still printed in small caps. (Though “CD-ROM” creates a mix of these two styles, Taddle Creek quite likes it.)

Finally, because the above-mentioned reader asked: “O.K.” is indeed an initialism, standing for “oll korrect,” a nineteenth-century misspelling of “all correct” that, for reasons unknown—or at least widely disagreed upon—stuck in the lexicon. It is not a shortened form of “okay,” thus: periods.

And with that, Taddle Creek thanks its loyal reader for allowing it to speak out on yet another fascinating grammar-related topic.