RE: Acronyms, abbreviations and initialism

Subject: RE: Acronyms, abbreviations and initialism
From: "Johnson, Tom" <TJohnson -at- starcutter -dot- com>
To: "Beth Agnew" <Beth -dot- Agnew -at- senecac -dot- on -dot- ca>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2006 11:23:19 -0500

Or, one could argue, that not all acronyms are initialisms. Radar (RAdio Detection And Ranging) is an acronym because it is a pronounceable word. But, it uses more than the initial letter of one of the words which would make it NOT an initialism. FBI is an initialism because it uses only the initials, but you wouldn't call it an acronym. Snafu (Situation Normal All Fouled *for polite folks--others are less discrete* Up) is both an initialism and an acronym. All of them are abbreviations.

Waiting for Geoff Hart to weigh in on this one. Come on Geoff!

Tom Johnson
Technical Writer
tjohnson -at- starcutter -dot- com

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+tjohnson=starcutter -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+tjohnson=starcutter -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com]On
Behalf Of Beth Agnew
Sent: Friday, March 31, 2006 2:01 PM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: Acronyms, abbreviations and initalisms

For we purists, every acronym is an initialism, but not every initialism is
an acronym. If one thinks of acronym as the set, and initalisms as a subset,
then the use of acronym ubiquitously is correct. (Gawd, that was pedantic!)

As pointed out, a true acronym is when we pronounce the initials as a word,
as in SCUBA and NATO. IBM is a true initialism and not an acronym because we
never say Ibbem. IRA is an initialism when speaking of the Irish Republican
Army, but an acronym when speaking of Eye-rah, one's individual retirement
account. A uniform resource locator can be either an earl or a URL,
depending on one's way of speaking.

I suppose if one wanted to force initialism over acronym, we'd write
S.C.U.B.A. rather than scuba.

Presenting "Podcasting & Vidcasting: The Future of TechComm"
at the STC Conference, Las Vegas, NV, 2 p.m. Wednesday May 10, 2006.

Beth Agnew
Professor, Technical Communication
Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology
Toronto, ON 416-491-5050 x3133


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