The Grammarphobia Blog

An inviting abbreviation

Q: My brother-in-law says “R.S.V.P.” should read “R.s.v.p.” I have always seen it with all capital letters. What is the correct way?

A: The correct style, according to both Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.), is “RSVP,” all caps and no periods. “RSVP” is one of many abbreviations that have lost their dots in recent years.

The term, an abbreviation for the French phrase Répondez, s’il vous plait (Please reply), has been used by English writers since the mid-19th century.

The earliest published reference in the Oxford English Dictionary comes from The Ingoldsby Legends (1845), a collection of supernatural stories by the poet and novelist Richard Harris Barham: “Quadrilles in the afternoon, R.S.V.P.”

The OED’s first citation for the term as a verb appears in a 1969 detective novel by Raymond Vernon Beste in which the sleuth “R.S.V.Ped” to a Spanish Duchess.

If you’d like to read more about “RSVP,” check out my May 7, 2007, blog item.

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