Re: When to Spell Out Acronyms

Subject: Re: When to Spell Out Acronyms
From: Janice Gelb <janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2006 14:28:22 +1100

Harris, Michael wrote:

One of the most fluid issues I find in writing technical documentation is 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 the 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 known, does it get spelled out? How about CORBA, which a local manager thinks is well-known enough as Common Object Request Broker Architecture and does not need to be spelled out.

Here are the guidelines from our style guide:

* In most cases, expand the term and enclose its abbreviation
or acronym in parentheses the first time the term is used in
text. Then, continue using the abbreviation or acronym alone.

* Repeat the spelled-out version at least at the first
occurrence in each chapter where the abbreviation or acronym

In online help and other topic-based online documents, repeat
the spelled-out version at the first occurrence in each topic.
In this context, a topic is typically self-contained and
resides in its own file.

* If you are certain that an abbreviation or acronym is a
standard term for your target audience, you do not need to
spell it out at any occurrence.

For example, you do not need to spell out “CD-ROM,” “RAM,” or
“CPU” in a system administration book. However, if you are
uncertain, err on the side of caution, and spell out the
abbreviation or acronym.

* Avoid first usage of an acronym or abbreviation in a chapter
title, heading, or caption.

-- Janice

Janice Gelb | The only connection Sun has with
janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com | this message is the return address

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When to Spell Out Acronyms: From: Harris, Michael

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