Abbreviations: Helpful or Not?

In this article, I share my thoughts on how abbreviations can be helpful or cause confusion depending on how they are used in a knitting pattern. Also, I give the list of details I check for when tech editing concerning abbreviations.

An example abbreviations list

Hello everyone!

Abbreviations! Most knitting patterns I encounter use K2tog instead of knit two together, YO instead of yarn over, and so on.

Abbreviations allow us to shorten the length of a knitting pattern.

For some designs, if the word knit is used 100 times in the instructions, writing the abbreviation K instead of knit can cut out 300 letters.

Also, abbreviations are very familiar and can make a pattern feel like home to some knitters.

I have old knitting patterns from my late great-grandmother which are bursting with abbreviations making some of them appear like a puzzle compared to many patterns I’ve seen published.

To Include or Not Include

Do I need to include abbreviations in my knitting pattern? It depends.

Reasons to Use Abbreviations

Abbreviations can be used to shorten a knitting pattern.

I’ve written an essay before. I have memories of endless hours spent going through my paper trying to remove unnecessary words or change redundant words.

Using abbreviations for commonly used words in a knitting pattern like dec (for decrease) and inc (for increase) can help solve this problem.


My grandmother’s patterns were full abbreviations. For that traditional touch, abbreviations can be included.

You prefer knitting from patterns with abbreviations!

When knitting from patterns, I may process the meaning of an abbreviation quicker than reading the full word.

That’s also a valid reason to use abbreviations.

Reasons to Not Use

Often, screen readers don’t read knitting abbreviations correctly.

Knitters with visual impairments may struggle to read an abbreviation or read back and forth from an abbreviation to its instructions in another location of the pattern.

Include an Abbreviations List or Key

If you are an aspiring knitwear designer, whether you use abbreviations in your pattern or not is a personal decision not a right or wrong.

For those who choose to utilize abbreviations, take the following sentence to heart.

Include an abbreviations key or list in a pattern to explain the meaning of each abbreviation used.

We need to share empathy with a majority of knitters today who aren’t always learning to knit a pattern with their grandmother sitting next to them explaining each abbreviation.

Guideline for Including Abbreviations

If you are designing a knitting pattern, consider these questions when including abbreviations.

  1. Are all abbreviations used in the pattern listed in an abbreviation key or list with a short description of what each abbreviation stands for?
  2. Is each description detailed enough for a knitter to understand how to work the stitch?
  3. Are more involved stitches described elsewhere in the pattern or linked to in a tutorial?

A Tech Editor’s Perspective

When I tech edit a knitting pattern, the abbreviations are an area I give special attention to. I will go through the following details:

  1. Does the pattern contain any abbreviations?
  2. If abbreviations are used, is there a key or list of abbreviations?
  3. Are all abbreviations used in the pattern present in the key or list?
  4. Generally, are all abbreviations listed in the key or list used in the pattern? Like a magazine, a designer can include a full list of every abbreviation ever used in every pattern, though it would be lengthy for a single pattern. I will check and note any extra abbreviations as just a couple of unused abbreviations in the key could cause confusion.
  5. Do any abbreviations sound like they need more explanation or a tutorial? This wouldn’t be k2tog but more detailed or unique stitches like cables or stitch patterns the designer created.
  6. If tutorials are linked, do the links work correctly? Does the URL send knitters to the correct address?
  7. Are there any missing instructions to work the stitch? Mentally, I try to work the stitches as if I’m knitting them.


Abbreviations, and their fellow list, can be common attributes of a knitting pattern.

When done well, they can create a compact layout and simplified experience with a pattern for knitters.

Abbreviations have to be executed well to be a helpful component of a pattern!

What are your opinions on abbreviations in knitting patterns? Do you like patterns that use abbreviations? Do you see areas knitting patterns could improve in the area of abbreviations and their list or key? Comment below if you so desire!

Have a blessed day, friends! I will be back with more to share soon.

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