Episode 18: October 8, 2006
Grammar Girl here.
Today's topic is redundant acronyms.
Some of you know that I'm a working writer. I've had some big deadlines over the last few weeks, so that's why there haven't been as many episodes out; but my work is always a huge inspiration for the show, and this week was no exception. I came across a great example of a redundant abbreviation.
Don't Let Abbreviations Make You Redundant
I was writing about a scientific experiment, and I found myself writing the phrase PCR reaction; and then I realized that PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction, so I had just written polymerase chain reaction reaction, which is obviously redundant. Yet, I've heard people say it that way a lot: “They ran a PCR reaction,” or “After running the PCR reaction, transfer the amplicon,” or something like that. There's just something to the ear that sounds wrong about ending a sentence with that acronym, but it's the right way to do it.
So I started thinking about other abbreviations that lure people into redundancy. I've definitely heard people say PIN number, which is redundant because the n in PIN stands for number, so they've just said personal identification number number. HIV virus is another one that comes to mind. The v stands for virus.
I went searching and found a couple of websites that list a whole bunch of commonly used redundant acronyms and phrases, so I'll put a link to those at the bottom of this transcript.
The important thing to remember is that when you are using an acronym, take a second to think about what words it stands for so that you don't add redundant words at the end.
Next, the results are in from the Schoolhouse Rock survey. One hundred and twenty people took the poll and 45% said that Conjunction Junction was their favorite episode; 13% had no idea what I was talking about, and the rest of the responses were split pretty evenly between* the other choices.