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Monday, February 21, 2011

You and US

A reader has inquired why I spell the abbreviation for "United States" as US, without periods. He points out that The Canadian Press stylebook recommends periods, on the grounds that otherwise it could be confused with the pronoun "us". Like all style guide editors, the CP stylebook makes some of its own choices where options are available. I really don't think it's possible for "US" to be confused with the pronoun, because it is always capitalized, and always preceded by "the" or used as a modifying noun: "US deficit to balloon". In other words, syntactically, US can simply not be confused with "us". (A recent very successful American history textbook series played on this, however, with the very clever title "The Story of US".) In any case, the Canadian Oxford Dictionary entry is for "US" without periods.


  1. I understand your reasoning, Katherine, but when I see US my mind reads it as 'us' first and then realizes it is the short form of 'United States,' otherwise it doesn't make sense. It must be my aging factor coming into play!
    P.S. My British dictionary (Chambers) uses the periods for U.S.

  2. This is not a UK/US distinction, as the Oxford Dictionary of English (2003) also spells the abbreviations without periods.

  3. .. or use "USA" or "American", as the context demands. :)


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.