How to Abbreviate Words for License Plates

by Marie Mulrooney

Personalized license plates, also known as vanity plates, allow you to make a statement that's seen everywhere your vehicle goes. How many letters and numbers are allowed on a license plate varies from state to state (and from country to country as well). Your state's Department of Motor Vehicles will be able to tell you exactly what the requirements for a vanity license plate are in your state, as well as how much the plates typically cost. Depending on what you're trying to say, you may reasonably expect to cram between one and three words of a phrase onto a license plate.

Step 1

Identify any sounds in the word or words you chose that correspond directly to letters or numbers. You're abbreviating things almost as if you were trying to make a short, quick text message. For example: "You" becomes the letter "U," "Are" becomes the letter "R," and since the -ate part of "Late" sounds just like the numeral 8, "Late" becomes abbreviated to "L8."

Step 2

Remove any extra vowels. For our purposes, "Y" is not a vowel. So if you want your plate to say "Good Boy," you'd remove all the extra vowels (the O's) and reduce it to "GDBY."

Step 3

Read over your abbreviated plate and try to think of any possibly misinterpretations of it. In the above example we wanted the plate to say "Good Boy", but our first abbreviation, GDBY, could also be mistakenly interpreted as "Goodbye." Experiment with adding back in one or two letters until you find a combination that both fits on the plate and clears up the ambiguity. In this case, we can simply add in one O and end up with "GDBOY."

Step 4

Fill in any remaining characters in your allotment by approximating sounds. If you'd like to make the above plate's meaning even clearer, for example, use a U to help approximate the sound of "Good" without adding in two letters: GUDBOY.

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