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NB latin abbreviation is used everywhere in French, and present in English dictionaries and wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nota_bene , but quite often English speaking people ask me what it means. So, is it unusual or deprecated in either English or American English ?

BTW, does someone know a list of latin abbreviations

  • that are "standard" and commonly used in English too (like I.e. , P.S. or C.V.),
  • vs, commonly unknown to English speakers (or American English),
  • vs, used but not-so-standard, i.e., mainly used by ( American) English speakers only, like E.g. ?

Or might it be that the dots are really important, and people would understand N.b. but not NB ?

  • Probably depends on your audience. Lots of people will know some of them and not others. Boxing fans, for example, will know vs. – puppetsock Mar 11 at 15:00
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    As a reasonably educated person who learned some Latin at school (unlike most of today's children), I know many, but not all, of these, and some of the 'less common' list. – Kate Bunting Mar 11 at 17:48
  • @KateBunting ... Amen! Loss of Latin in our school systems is a tragedy. – Katherine Mar 11 at 18:11
  • Asking for a list is off topic. – CJ Dennis Mar 11 at 21:08
  • Kate Bunting: thanks ! still, their list of "commonly used" seems suspectly long to be really known by most people, especially compare to the UNC link Katherine provided below. ;-) – Fabrice NEYRET Mar 12 at 15:19
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N.B. is a Latin abbreviation that usually appears in a footnote as added information that is not necessary in the text, but provides additional information for the reader. Therefore, if the "English speakers" you have encountered have not learned how to write papers with footnotes, they are unlikely to be familiar with this abbreviation.

In working with students, confusion about when to use e.g. and i.e. is common. This confusion is gone once they understand that e.g. is for some examples and i.e. is to clarify something previously stated.

As for a list of Latin abbreviations, I recommend the UNC Writing Center website: https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/latin-terms-and-abbreviations/

Hope this helps you.

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  • Thanks ! I think that in France every basic highschool student (even with zero latin course) would know "NB", "vs", "cf" (even in plain text or emails), despite they are described as "less common" in the link. Conversely, "i.e." is a lot less known, and "e.g." not used at all in French. (plus I think we don't pay much attention to putting the dots). – Fabrice NEYRET Mar 12 at 15:17
  • @FabriceNEYRET ... as for the dots, it is pro forma for some of the Latin abbreviations in accepted styles for academic and professional writing. Are they necessary? Probably not, but expected in certain types of writing in the USA. When I edited manuscripts for a scientific journal, such corrections were expected before publication. That said, style requirements do change over time, and some of these dots may very well fall into disuse if readability is not affected, such as ie or i.e. With dots, it does not look like a typo. – Katherine Mar 12 at 16:28
  • Of course (I'm scientist too). My point was really to be understood in emails and forums by native English speakers (I was surprised to be asked several time "what do you mean by NB" in technical fora, for instance). – Fabrice NEYRET Mar 13 at 17:21
  • I feel your pain! In my work, I am amazed by the lack of awareness within one's own field of study...by students and PhDs alike. – Katherine Mar 13 at 20:42

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