Do You Use an Apostrophe to Make “OK” Past Tense?
Is it "OKed" or "OK'd"?
Michael B. asked,
“How would one write the past tense of an acronym? I work in the IT industry, and we have many acronyms like NAT (Network Address Translation). Would it be proper if, in a sentence, I were to write, "I NATed the address to the outside interface"?
Acronyms As Nouns and Verbs
Many abbreviations are nouns (CD, HIV, ATM); it’s less common for them to be verbs. Examples of verbs include OK, OD (for overdose), ID (for identify), and IM (for instant message). Nouns don't have a past tense; verbs do.
Apostrophes to Make Acronyms Past Tense
The Chicago Manual of Style allows OD'd for overdosed, and the AP Stylebook recommends OK'd for okayed. Based on those two examples, I recommend that Michael use NAT’d.
Michael should only use NAT’d, however, if people commonly use NAT as a verb in his industry. Typically, a translation is a thing—a noun. Since I’m not in his industry, Network Address Translation sounds like a noun to me. It doesn’t sound like something you should make past tense.
Make acronyms and initialisms past tense by adding an apostrophe and a d: OK'd.
If Michael’s coworkers are comfortable saying something like “I’ll NAT that,” then they’re using it as a verb and NAT’d is appropriate to use in those circles.
If, on the other hand, the more common use of NAT is something like “I’ll get you the NAT,” then it’s a noun and using NAT’d would be a stretch that would probably sound odd to most people.
NAT is definitely an abbreviation that will only be meaningful to people in certain industries, so Michael should avoid using it with people who will find it confusing.
Is “NAT” Really an Acronym or Could It Be an Initialism? (Quick and Dirty Tips)
Did You Know That a Journalist Coined the Word "OK"? (Muckrack)
Get more tips like this in The Grammar Devotional: