RE: Cobra or COBRA

Subject: RE: Cobra or COBRA
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: List, Techwriter <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2005 16:17:14 -0500

John Posada asked...

> > Hi, guys...
> >
> > I'm documrenting insurance stuff and we refer alot
> > to the
> > Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
> > (COBRA).
> >
> > For those that know...those in the field where COBRA
> > is an industry
> > term (as opposed to those who see it only as a
> > grammar question),
> > because is it an acronym, do you make it all caps or
> > even though it
> > is an acro, is it so common that it's become a
> > normal word "Cobra"?
> >
> > Thanks

My purely unscientific response would be to always use COBRA when you're talking about the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The main reason is that "Cobra" as a word (not a common acronym) means many different things: it can mean the government Act, the snake, the limited edition Ford Mustang variety, or the CB-radio (among others). Obviously context is going to limit which "cobra" you mean to all but the most sheltered and naïve of readers, but there's no sense introducing even a hint of unintentional declarification.

There is no such confusion when you do not use all caps for common acronyms like "Scuba" or "Radar" because there is no other common meaning to "Scuba" or "Radar" as words other than the meaning of the acronym term.

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