RE: When to Spell Out Acronyms

Subject: RE: When to Spell Out Acronyms
From: "Daniel Frankham" <daniel -dot- frankham -at- saabsystems -dot- com -dot- au>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2006 13:35:40 +1030

> From: Harris, Michael [mailto:Michael -dot- Harris -at- innocon -dot- com]
> Subject: When to Spell Out Acronyms
> One of the most fluid issues I find in writing technical documentation
> determining when to spell out acronyms in the first usage and when to
> 'assume' that since all of the readers should have some knowledge of
> material, that spelling it out is not necessary.
> Does anyone have guidance in this regard? The primary customer of our
> documentation is a technical branch of the Army. While CPU is well
> does it get spelled out? How about CORBA, which a local manager
thinks is
> well-known enough as Common Object Request Broker Architecture and
> not need to be spelled out.
> Thank you for your input.

The Australian defence documentation standard I usually use requires all
acronyms to be spelled out on their first appearance in each chapter.
The manual I mainly work on has about 200 chapters. Ouch.

The standard doesn't specify which acronyms can be used without being
spelled out, but as a rule we don't spell them out if they're part of
everyday speech, such as PC, CD, and DVD. Acronyms that we know are part
of the everyday vocabulary of our audience, but not everyday speech, are
spelled out. This is part of the standard, but also seems like a good
idea as a general practice. Some of our readers will probably read this
manual 'on their first day' -- or at least before they've had a chance
to absorb all the acronyms they'll end up using all the time.

Daniel Frankham


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