In math, there is a concept called random variable, and for convenience people usually just write r.v. I have some questions regarding writing the abbreviation r.v. in a sentence.

  1. Would a native speaker read (in their mind) r.v. as the two letters "R V" or as its original spelling "random variable"? In other words, should I write

    Consider an r.v.


    Consider a r.v.

  2. Should the plural form be


    If not, then what?

I'd also appreciate a general rule not specific to this particular example.

  • Wow I have never seen anyone write "r.v.". I have seen a few papers where they write RV (= random variable). I and others I know often read the the full thing when its 3 or fewer words. For example, UR would be read as Unemployment Rate and not "u.r." or "oor". BoC would be read as Bank of Canada and not "b.o.c." But for some reason we read PPP (purchasing power parity) as "p.p.p". Good question though ...
    – AIQ
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 4:13
  • Whether it stands for random variable (I've never heard that before) or recreational vehicle (which I'd initially thought), the acronym would normally be RV, not r.v. Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 5:01

1 Answer 1


This reference Google books "random variable RV"
on page 619 says "A random variable (often denoted RV) is a variable..."
Pp. 619 and 624 show examples of the plural.

RV, the abbreviation, should be in capital letters, and it should be pluralized as RVs, with the plural s in lower case.

This is discussed here: Stack Exchange ELU apostrophe in abbrev. etc.

  • Thanks. What about the article? Should I write "a RV" or "an RV"?
    – trisct
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 15:02
  • The choice of "a" or "an" depends on how the abbreviation is vocalized. As to which to use in writing, I suggest you search on the phrase 'use of "a" or "an" before a vowel in an abbreviation'. This reference discusses the question with specific reference to scientific papers: shearsoneditorial.com/2013/07/… Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 15:11

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