Another nearly universal rule with word stress relates to abbreviations, which are words where each letter is pronounced. A couple of obvious examples are USA, DVD, and NYC. For abbreviations, stress placement is almost always on the last letter. Listen to and repeat the following examples, making sure that each letter is clearly pronounced:
MA (Master of Arts)
HR (Human Resources)
MBA (Master of Business Administration)
CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)
CEO (Chief Executive Officer)
GPA (Grade Point Average)
CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
KPMG (Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler)
TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday)
ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer)
Note: There are very few exceptions to this rule. Two common exceptions are DJ (disk jockey) and OJ (orange juice), where the stress placement is on the first letter.
Try guessing the abbreviation for each of the following descriptions. Check your answers after you’ve finished.
- This is a lifesaving technique used in emergencies, including heart attacks and near drownings. CPR (Cardiopulmonary respiration)
- Along with Newark Liberty International and LaGuardia airports, this airport combines to form the largest airport system in the United States. JFK (John F. Kennedy)
- This is the fire department of New York City. FDNY (Fire Department of New York)
- This is an object in the sky that you can’t recognize. UFO (Unidentified flying object)
- This is one measure for how smart a person is. IQ (Intelligence quotient)
What do you do now?
First, make a list of as many abbreviations you can think of. Try categorizing them into “academic,” “professional,” and “social” abbreviations, and then practice pronouncing those abbreviations in sentences.
Second, come see a speech consultant to check your pronunciation of abbreviations, learn more about stress and how to master it, and improve your intelligibility.