Two-letter abbreviations: TWO exceptions TOO many. Period.

cartoon images of G.I. Joe

That’s “G-period-I-period” to you, pal.

According to the AP Stylebook, one should use capital letters and periods in most two-letter abbreviations.

For example:  the U.N., the U.K., B.A., and B.C. …

“AP, a trademark, is an exception.”

Ok, I can accept that. It’s AP’s stylebook, so it can choose to be exceptional.

But then it adds there are no periods in GI and EU.

Why?  What are they thinking?

Why is it “the U.N.” and yet “the EU”?  What makes the United Nations different from the European Union when it comes to punctuation?

United … Union … Nations … Nations of Europe. Nope, I don’t see it.

Why does AP single out the abbreviation “GI” — usually understood to mean “Government Issue,” but specifically relating to the U.S. Armed Forces.

According to Merriam-Webster, “GI” originally meant “galvanized iron.” It was used as an abbreviation in U.S. military supply lists to describe such things as garbage cans. During World War II, “G.I. Joe” became the general nickname for all American soldiers, no matter what branch of the Army or Army Air Forces they were in.

Wait a minute: That’s “G.I. Joe.”

That trademark uses two periods.

But the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs drops the periods, AP-Style-like, in offering the educational grants to veterans covered under what’s known as the “GI Bill.”

So, when considering two-letter abbreviations, I need to keep in mind:

The AP correspondent covering the EU military beat sold his G.I. Joe doll* collection when the GI Bill didn’t cover all his university expenses.

[Does AP distinguish between “dolls” and “figurines”?  Is it sexist to insist that only girls play with dolls, and boys play with figurines?]

— Nadine Siak


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