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Word Clipping

The shortening of words has long been a part of language evolution. The English language is full of clipped words, which usually emerge as time-savers in both speaking and writing.

Although the truncating of words is considered colloquial and informal, some clipped words have become the standard and can therefore be used in more formal settings.

What Is Word Clipping?

A clipped word is formed by dropping one or more syllables from a longer word, without changing its meaning. Their usage is so common, their origins are sometimes unknown.

This linguistic phenomenon is by no means a new concept. Forming words by word clipping has been occurring in modern language since at least the 1700s.

How Do You Clip A Word?

There are five ways to shorten a word:

#1 Back-Clipping

When the beginning of the word is retained.

Teenager >>> Teen

Examination >>> Exam

Memorandum >>> Memo

#2 Fore-Clipping

When the end of the word is retained.

Telephone >>> Phone

Caravan >>> Van

Internet >>> Net

#3 Middle-Clipping (Or Back- and Fore-Clipping)

When the middle of the word is retained.

Influenza >>> Flu

Refrigerator >>> Fridge

Prescription >>> Script

#4 Complex-Clipping (Or Clipping Compounds)

When parts of a compound word are retained.

Situation Comedy >>> Sitcom

Foreign Exchange >>> Forex

Grandmother >>> Grandma

#5 Blending

When parts of two or more words are combined to form an entirely new word.

Breakfast + Lunch >>> Brunch

Smoke + Fog >>> Smog

Web + Seminar >>> Webinar

When Is It Appropriate To Use Word Clipping?

English is a living language and over time clipped words become commonplace resulting in the acceptance of a clipped word into formal language. For example, cinema from cinematograph.

In business writing, it is always best to consider your audience. Make the time and effort to use appropriate language for the situation.

Do you use clipped words in your business writing?

Which clipped words have you noticed making their way into formal language?


Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. Her programs help her clients to excel in their role and be recognised as leaders in their field.
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