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--- Kathy10th -at- aol -dot- com wrote:
> In a printed document, or in a linear online document, I would write the full
> name of "whatever" and put its acronym in parenthesis after it. Thereafter in
> the document, I would use only the acronym. For example, I use CSC quite
> often in my writing. So I would write Customer Service Coordinator (CSC) on
> the first usage and then simply CSC after that.
> Our documents are published on our company's intranet. They are not printed
> and are non-linear. We might have a core document of about 200 pages. The
> core document may contain enough information for some users. There are links
> from the core document to other documents that contain additional detail.
> These ancillary documents could add an additional 500 pages. Since the users
> can go from the table of contents directly to the section they want in the
> core document and from there to one or more ancillary files - where is the
> first usage? Do I have to write Customer Service Coordinator (CSC) every time
> I use it? Or, maybe only the first time I use it on a page?
We've wrestled with the same issues as we have put our system documentation
online in various applications. Like you, I have used the style of spelling out
the first use of an acronym or abbreviation and then just using the acronym or
abbreviation thereafter. But we're getting away from that, and at least part of
the reason is one you mentioned about the non-linear nature of online
Someone suggested a Glossary, and I think that's a fine idea. Acronyms and
abbreviations will never die. Users will always need to have a place where they
can find out what CCCS stands for, and not everyone will think to look at
acronymfinder.com (which is not always helpful for specific cases, either).
Except for the Glossary of Terms, we're actually moving away from reliance on
acronyms and abbreviations in the documentation altogether. Oh, we'll use them
in the writing, but then we'll do global replacements to put the full name in.
Especially where documentation is heavily chunked for online help or other
online uses, having the full name eliminates the need for explanations of
acronyms or abbreviations. We do carry both iterations in the Glossary and link
extensively so that those who need to know can find out what "it" is.
Another advantage of losing the acronyms is, as with pronouns, that the easiest
way to clear up ambiguous prose is to reduce (or eliminate) their use.