Please give full names before using acronyms March 28, 2024 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Whether it's the name of a person, a drug or medical treatment, a non-governmental organization (NGO), a less-common internet term, or something specific to your field of interest, please spell it out and only then use the acronym.

I'm prompted to post this by today's post about "SBF," which, without context, I didn't initially identify as Sam Bankman-Fried, but I've been seeing this a lot, and I've been frustrated by it.

It's a best practice if you're writing about something, to spell out the name and then introduce the acronym. In formal writing, you might write something like "Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF)" but in less-formal writing, like we do at MF, we can get away with just switching to the acronym after the name has been given.

I'm inclined to ask for something similar if you're using a nickname for a public figure. I know who you mean if you talk about "the Cheeto" (it's Donald Trump!) but I've seen other nicknames I don't know, and I certainly can't know whether all of our readers will recognize them.

This a part of being inclusive, and it's also taking care to ensure that we are communicating information. This is a friendly reminder and request, not a request for policy.
posted by Well I never to Etiquette/Policy at 12:36 PM (106 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

I am going to DTMFA over this post.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:27 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


I agree, though I think providing a link is also acceptable. E.g., “The NTSB is investigating the bridge collapse.”
posted by learning from frequent failure at 2:31 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]


like we do at MF

*cough*
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:19 PM on March 28 [28 favorites]


You definitely don’t want to know what the French are doing over at Metafilteur, because they are all about the unexplained acronyms.
posted by snofoam at 5:33 PM on March 28


Thanks for making this request—I’ll share with BHY, Wick Wiggle, and the Dendrochroneptagon.
posted by box at 6:51 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


Links aren’t as frictionless as writing it out the first time, but I agree with the spirit of the request.
posted by lesser weasel at 8:48 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


JFHC! already....
posted by y2karl at 10:03 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


My first thought was to say that surely there are abbreviations that are clear to everyone, such as NASA. But then I remembered how I've seen a couple of times here on mefi a confusion about what BLM means in a specific context. Bureau of Land Management - one instance was when the Malheur occupation (remember that?) and Black Lives Matter protests where happening roughly at the same time.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 3:20 AM on March 29 [9 favorites]


And not everyone is in the ... United States.
posted by obfuscation at 6:02 AM on March 29 [31 favorites]


Or 2024 (you know, if one day you find yourself reading comments written 10 years ago)
posted by trig at 6:25 AM on March 29 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I was confused by the SBF thread at first glance also, so I view this request of the community as a very reasonable ask.

Communication can be hard, especially on a global platform, so taking a few seconds to make things as clear as possible helps everyone, imo.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 6:28 AM on March 29 [19 favorites]


like we do at MF

*cough*


Mea culpa. I moved a couple of paragraphs around when editing and somehow misplaced my first mention of Metafilter, which I had indeed spelled out.
posted by Well I never at 7:39 AM on March 29 [5 favorites]


(that said, I get less confused by things like this, where the answer can often be found in the link or tags or initial comments - or even google - than by people bringing in references that can't be figured out via any nearby context. Like there's a thing here where people will make a point specifically based on their professional background or where they live or used to live, or the relationship they have with some person they're writing about, and the comment won't make sense or add anything unless you're aware of that information, but the only way to know it is to be a longstanding member who happens to remember these random facts about commenters. That's always really interesting to me - are these commenters expecting people to know this information, or not considering that most readers don't, or just figuring that "whoever gets it gets it"?)
posted by trig at 7:41 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]


the only way to know it is to be a longstanding member who happens to remember these random facts about commenters

Yes I bump into this occasionally, and I guess now I'm one of those longstanding members! Even more irritating to me is how some seem to know who others' sockpuppet accounts were previously, which I find very high-school cliquish. But back to the matter at hand, I agree with learning from frequent failure that an explanatory link when first using a not-well-known acronym is acceptable. The one I encountered here recently which I had to look up was NSAID (where I would just have written 'ibuprofen').
posted by Rash at 7:56 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


The one I encountered here recently which I had to look up was NSAID (where I would just have written 'ibuprofen').

That's actually an interesting case where spelling out the acronym wouldn't necessarily be enough. B/c knowing it's a "non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug" may not actually tell you what medications the person needs to avoid. And while ibuprofen is an NSAID, it's not the only over the counter* (OTC) NSAID. Naproxen and aspirin are two other examples. Tylenol is the only OTC pain reliever someone could take if they can't take NSAIDs.

And for that question, specifying Tylenol as the only OTC pain reliever option probably would have been easiest.

But this metatalk (MeTa) is a good reminder! B/c now I'm suddenly realizing that I absolutely use acronyms without first defining them and don't even think about it (like I originally didn't define "OTC" when first writing out this comment.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:56 AM on March 29 [5 favorites]


And for that question, specifying Tylenol as the only OTC pain reliever option probably would have been easiest.

Of course, in much of the world, people won't know what Tylenol is. Calling it acetaminophen won't help much either when most of us call it paracetamol.
posted by pipeski at 9:11 AM on March 29 [21 favorites]


It also raises the question though of what's considered reasonable to expect people to know, or to look up. I feel like NSAID and OTC are really commonly used (although maybe only in some areas and demographic groups?) Either way, they're also terms that have been around for a long time, are easily googled, and are frequently used in all kinds of documentation that you're not unlikely to interact with at some point in your life. In other words, they're like vocabulary words worth learning (in some locales, at least). Whereas the "SBF" that inspired this post is just an unofficial shortening of some guy's name - a name that probably almost nobody knew last year, and that probably few people will remember by next year. In other words, it's a piece of short-lived, very niche slang, easily google-able right now but maybe not so much next year, and largely worthless in terms of general or cultural literacy.

As pipeski points out, brand names are also not universally recognized. Likewise even for proper names - for example one comment in the SBF thread mentions Madoff, and maybe not everyone knows or remembers who that name referred to. Personally I kind of like looking up things like that and find the knowledge interesting or useful; these are like windows into worlds I might not be that familiar with, especially when it comes to terms from other countries or regions. (I spent years in the US but the first time I heard someone mention a Piggly Wiggly - a supermarket chain nonexistent where I lived - I thought it must be some kind of weird joke; surely it couldn't be a real place where real people did real shopping!) I think it's fine not to expect everyone to define those, at least not all of the time, unless they're truly niche or hard to google. But random acronyms that aren't standard or common, that are mostly used just for convenience in very narrow, temporary contexts and that I have no reason to expect people to recognize in a year or two - I feel it's basic consideration to the reader to define those.

That's my own spectrum on this - others may vary!
posted by trig at 9:28 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


I agree with this! It's good practice in general and makes the place a lot more welcoming to new people, both to the site and to certain ideas or discussions.
posted by rpfields at 9:55 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


The one I encountered here recently which I had to look up was NSAID (where I would just have written 'ibuprofen').

As a person with an NSAID allergy, I can tell you there are more NSAIDs out there than ibuprofen. Naproxen sodium (Aleve) is available without a prescription in the US. So in this case "ibuprofen" might not be sufficient.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 10:00 AM on March 29 [8 favorites]


OTC are really commonly used

I googled it, apparently its some sort of financial instrument?
posted by biffa at 10:09 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


I agree with this. Saw that post, didn't know what SBF was and clicked through and found the article wasn't even in (non pidgen) English. Flagged it and was surprised it was still up hours later.

Metfilter isn't a contest. There's no need to post links to meathead articles just to be first. That post was super lame and could have been interesting if someone waited a few hours for it to be news in more places instead of just blocking anyone wanting to make a considered post about the topic who now couldn't because it would have been a 'double'.

The SBF just made it even worse and proved the OP wanted the post to be first rather than good.
posted by dobbs at 10:09 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


OTC are really commonly used

Only in the US. I like this request, I was tripped up by posts about the IRA, which in Europe means the Irish Republican Army.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:47 AM on March 29 [14 favorites]


Of course, in much of the world, people won't know what Tylenol is. Calling it acetaminophen won't help much either when most of us call it paracetamol.

Fair enough. It would have been better to write "acetaminophen/paracetamol" in place of Tylonel.

But one difference with that vs the subject of this post: you can at least easily google tylenol or acetaminophen and find out what it is. But with some acronyms, googling it won't necessarily get you the answer relevant to a particular thread, and the shorter the acronym, the more that is going to be true.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:52 AM on March 29 [7 favorites]


But obviously having to google something adds an extra layer of friction, so I will try to be more aware of terminology that is US/region specific and acronyms, so that I can define those in the actual posts/comments, as requested in this metatalk post.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:54 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


> OTC are really commonly used

I googled it, apparently its some sort of financial instrument?


So TIL (today I learned) that OTC isn't used in the UK (right?) It's almost always encountered in phrases like "OTC medication" or "OTC drugs" or "I don't know if you can get that [medication] OTC", which is useful context for googling - although even just googling "OTC" without any other context, the medical meaning appeared in the second result (for me).

Anyway, an OTC drug is an over-the-counter drug, meaning one you can buy without a prescription. A very useful and (in my experience, at least) common vocabulary term in the US.

I know that US-centrism is an issue here, but at the same time, like I said before, I think it's good and worthwhile to know the meanings of words commonly used in other countries. For example, I've never lived in the UK but, since I like to read UK news and books and watch British TV and so forth, I think it's worth knowing UK English terms like skip (dumpster), Asda (supermarket chain), high street fashion (retail fashion), public school (very much not the same as a US public school), and so on and on and on. Not to mention the British English thing of only capitalizing the first letter of acronyms, like Nasa or Asbo, which is extremely disorienting if you're not used to it. There was a post here a few days ago about legislation that was tabled in Canada's Parliament, where "table" is a verb with two distinct and opposite meanings in the US and Canada; I thought it was worth pointing out because of the potential for misreading, but also thought it was fine that the poster hadn't defined the term, because they were writing in the totally standard English of their country. English is an international language, so it's good to know international terms and usages. Looking things up, or asking, adds a bit of friction, but that's not the worst tradeoff. I expect to look words up occasionally when reading news or books or forums, because English is huge and constantly growing.

Point being, I think it's okay for posters from wherever they are in the world to use terms that are common, useful vocabulary in their location and not feel like they have to define them, although it's certainly considerate of them if they do. I think it's okay to expect people to google terms in context, or use online dictionaries. I think using non-standard acronyms or slang that haven't crossed the common-vocabulary threshold is less okay, and it would be good to define it. And I think it's worth keeping in mind that what's more accessible to one person might be less so to another (e.g. a lot of US people will know what Tylenol but not be sure what acetaminophen is, and definitely not paracetamol.)

But! that's my personal take, and I definitely can understand other approaches.
posted by trig at 11:12 AM on March 29 [7 favorites]


It would have been better to write "acetaminophen/paracetamol" in place of Tylonel

You mean Doliprane?
posted by snofoam at 11:30 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Of course, if you need a long, mysterious acronym decoded, metafilter is the place to ask.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 12:46 PM on March 29 [5 favorites]


I am all over this request. Full name/term followed by the acronym was what I was taught in journalism school (j-school, heh) a million years ago. I’ve encountered AskMes that were totally opaque to me because the asker had so filled the message with ‘nyms and in-group terms that I had to nope out, disappointed that I hadn’t been able to learn something about what they were going through, even if I couldn’t help.
posted by lhauser at 12:57 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the post, Well I never! This did not happen here, but I was recently stymied by IOP, and had to ask someone privately what it stood for. In this case, it stood for intensive outpatient program. Alas, a single acronym may have more than one meaning depending on the context and industry. I endorse this suggestion and will try (and doubtless fail) to follow it.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:18 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


FYI acronymfinder.com is your friend.
posted by Melismata at 2:02 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, there is the delight of reading G.K. Chesterson's Bernie And Wooster books, which are a bit written like diary entries with various words represented simply by an initial rather than spelling them out. Part of the joy is feeling like you're on the inside of the joke when you read a phrase like "of course, the f. of the s. is more d. than the m." and understanding it.

I do admit, that is a specific kind of interest and is not suitable for actual informational communication on a platform such as MetaFilter.
posted by hippybear at 2:43 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


Is this where I do my PSA* that while most people read CBT as "cognitive behavior therapy" there are some of us degenerates out here who read it as "cock and ball torture"?

I still do a double take seeing "CBT" in articles..."Why would they recommend that?? Oh...."

PSA = Public Service Announcement

Also the Jeeves and Bertie books are by P.G. Wodehouse, not G.K. Chesterton. They are jolly good.
posted by Vatnesine at 3:12 PM on March 29 [16 favorites]


Dammmit, there are only a handful of British authors who are two initials plus a last name, and I didn't google.

And yes, they are j. g.
posted by hippybear at 3:39 PM on March 29


I am of many and conflicting opinions about this request!

1) This is great. Communication is good. I, too, was confused about the SBF post and irritated (so irritated, in fact, that I added a MyMeFi bookmark to focus more closely on my interests here and avoid things I don’t care about).

2) This is bad. There is no way to account for everyone’s localized knowledge, and part of the joy of MetaFilter (for me) is bumping into things I don’t know and looking them up and learning about them. Along which lines—I was looking at CNN and saw an article about “SBF” and was enlightened.

3) This is nonsense. MetaFilter is a discussion website. A place for fun. What’s described here is a writing protocol more appropriate for a publication.

4) I don’t think this is a bad request, but it’s yet another guideline/soft rule. I think we need fewer of those, not more.
posted by cupcakeninja at 5:21 PM on March 29 [8 favorites]


JG Ballard
VS Naipaul
JK Rowling
CS Lewis
CS Forester
HG Wells
AS Byatt
PD James
TH White
PB Shelly
TE Lawrence
DH Lawrence
AA Milne
EM Forster
RD Blackmore
EL James
WS Gilbert

I think they are all British. Surely there are more.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:26 PM on March 29 [7 favorites]


Dear god, what is it about MetaFilter that causes people to do things like that?
posted by hippybear at 7:45 PM on March 29 [10 favorites]


I heartily support this suggestion. Thank you for making it.

To me, this is part of the guideline to be considerate and respectful - to consider that others may not have all the same cultural references, and to welcome them into the conversation by making sure everyone's talking about the same thing, and nobody feels dumb for not having the same points of reference.

(I, too, was tripped up by the recent IRA thread - to me, IRAs are retirement savings - and I have had a heck of a time figuring out when HRC means Human Rights Campaign and when it means Hillary Rodham Clinton.)

I especially appreciate this: This a part of being inclusive, and it's also taking care to ensure that we are communicating information. This is a friendly reminder and request, not a request for policy. I agree that this feels kind and inclusive, to me, and I appreciate you thinking about it and encouraging the rest of us to do the same.

Thank you, Well I never.
posted by kristi at 7:45 PM on March 29 [9 favorites]


to me, IRAs are retirement savings

Thirty-mumblty years ago I was a member of the International Reading Association, being part of a teaching group focussed on reading literacy. So IRA.... yes, I do support bombing places to make people read!
posted by hippybear at 7:50 PM on March 29


^ but only if it also reduces inflation at the same time!
posted by kristi at 7:55 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


The CBT thing will never cease to be a head banger for me.
posted by Mitheral at 8:08 PM on March 29 [10 favorites]


I see what you did there.
posted by hippybear at 8:13 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


I'm all for defining acronyms at first use, but I can't even get junior staff to do this consistently at work, and they are being paid to do this. Getting a bunch of randos on a website who are participating for free to do so is beyond impossible. But I appreciate the effort here.

The CBT thing will never cease to be a head banger for me.

There are a set of acronyms that always throw me for a loop, like CBT (therapy vs kink) or ED (erectile vs eating issues). Usually it is clear in context once I think about it, but sometimes it is still completely ambiguous.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:31 PM on March 29 [7 favorites]


tldr aita bfd afaik ymmv
posted by y2karl at 9:39 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


I’m a rando who paid $5 to participate.
posted by Vatnesine at 9:48 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


When I'm reading and see an acronym I don’t immediately recognize, I go on reading and after a brief interval the meaning will float up to the underside of my consciousness like the answer in a Magic 8-ball.

Sometimes I’ll be in a subsequent paragraph before that happens, and I won’t even remember seeing the acronym and I’ll have to look back and try to find it.

Other times I’ll immediately recognize what the acronym is short for, but that doesn’t deter the Magic 8-ball, and several other possible decodings will float up over the course of a minute or so and it’s distracting and occasionally very annoying.

I recently got vaccinated against Respiratory Syncytial Virus after a ridiculous series of missteps by the clinic, and these days when you see RSV that’s what it stands for, but I can’t see it without a resonance of Rous Sarcoma Virus, and then hearing in a terrible sickly-sweet accent Repondez s'il vous plait and then a barrage of other stock phrases in French because I accidentally and ill-advisedly memorized a list of such things in a Larousse de Poche even though I can’t read French at all or speak a word of it.

In other words, please say what your acronyms stand for, because you are really messing up my Magic 8-ball when you don’t.
posted by jamjam at 10:18 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


I just Google them and generally figure it out eventually. But I understand your annoyance all the same. If only we had Star Trek Universal trsnslators for acronyminutia.
posted by y2karl at 11:31 PM on March 29


STFU, Metafilter!, that is "Say, Thanks for Understanding"
posted by lalochezia at 3:31 AM on March 30 [6 favorites]


Someone the other day started a reply to me with, TFP, and I was so confused. I Googled but couldn't come up with anything. I then mailed them on Metafilter's message system - they were abbreviating my user name!

🤦‍♀️ (LOL!)
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:43 AM on March 30 [19 favorites]


Well I never, on reflection I think this is a good idea in principle. I just don't think it's reasonable to expect users to do as you suggest. The labor is too great for many reasons. Per my earlier comment, it's one more soft rule/guideline/vibe on the scale against participation, for those who pay attention to such things.

That doesn't mean there isn't a way to access a key to acronyms.

What if, instead of asking users to disambiguate individually, MetaFilter included:

(a) an accessible, easily-findable, user-editable list of abbreviations. This could include everything from WSFS to DTMFA to FTFA to IRA.

or, more code-ily

(b) tooltips that automatically brought up a list of possible meanings for acronyms. I realize there's more programming involved with this option, and it raises questions about users' different modes of access, hovering vs. long-press, etc., etc. but it's a thought. The challenge of distinguishing one string of characters from another would involve significant technical challenges, so... could there be an option in the style box, in addition to "B I link," for "acro," which would pull from a database to display said mouseover text? I presume this would mean whole new levels of code, and I don't know if that's feasible or desirable, but I'm putting it out there.

I think (a) would feel clunky and somewhat "old web" in a way that doesn't diverge too widely from the site's ethos as it stands, and it would be technically the simplest to implement. I am aware that MetaFilter has a wiki, but I never, ever remember it's there unless someone mentions it on MetaTalk.

Just a thought, and... thanks for raising the concern in the first place.
posted by cupcakeninja at 6:09 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


I’ve encountered AskMes that were totally opaque to me because the asker had so filled the message with ‘nyms and in-group terms that I had to nope out

Some askers do this intentionally.

It's intended to repel answerers who think "well, I have no knowledge or experience of this subject area but I do love answering questions on the internet and can type queries into Google, so here goes...".
posted by Klipspringer at 6:37 AM on March 30 [12 favorites]


And even if it's not consciously intentional, an Ask filled with specialized terms that a potential answerer doesn't understand would seem to indicate that an uneducated answerer shouldn't be answering, as the asker is already above that person's skill/knowledge level. That's not a bad outcome.
posted by lapis at 8:10 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]


And even if it's not consciously intentional, an Ask filled with specialized terms that a potential answerer doesn't understand would seem to indicate that an uneducated answerer shouldn't be answering, as the asker is already above that person's skill/knowledge level. That's not a bad outcome.

No one is going to let a little bit of confusion stop them from trying to be helpful:

Q: How do I find an experienced CBT provider in my area, preferably who would take my insurance?

A: I can highly recommend Mistress Domina, but I think she only accepts cash and Venmo.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:19 AM on March 30 [5 favorites]


Tommy Chong says "Throw away your CBT!"
posted by y2karl at 10:37 AM on March 30


CBT (therapy vs kink)

vs Computer Based Training - it may not be used anymore, but it's the first use of "CBT" I encountered by a long shot, and that's where my brain always goes first when I see the acronym used in other contexts.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:45 AM on March 30 [6 favorites]


It took me a while to learn that POS in the context of retail doesn't (usually) mean "piece of shit"...
posted by trig at 11:23 AM on March 30 [9 favorites]


Not to mention the British English thing of only capitalizing the first letter of acronyms, like Nasa or Asbo, which is extremely disorienting if you're not used to it.

I didn't realize this was a British English thing. And I guess it's to indicate the difference between an abbreviation and an acronym? Although they're often muddled together, technically, the latter is defined as
An abbreviation formed by (usually initial) letters taken from a word or series of words, that is itself pronounced as a word.
So, for just one example, FBI is not an acronym. Are NSAIDs ever pronounced as en-seds? And in British English, is the FBI more correctly written as the F.B.I.?
posted by Rash at 11:29 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


I would definitely appreciate this. As others have pointed out, it's especially helpful for people who don't live in the US or have a different cultural background.

Just a note for all those saying it's easy to just look up what an acronym means: the answers you get vary considerably based on where you are. For example, I remember being baffled by PSA. When I google it, the first result is the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, followed by Prostate-Specfic Antigen test, the Public Service Association (a NSW-based* union), the Public Schools Association in WA** and various repeats. [*New South Wales, **Western Australia, NOT Washington thank you.]

Obviously I can work things out from context, and sometimes I have just asked what something means (most recently SAIT which is " same as in town", a phrase that also made no sense but at least I could google that). But it definitely contributes to the sense of feeling like an outsider on MetaFilter because of not living in the US.

And to those saying it's good to learn about other countries, um yeah. It's pretty unavoidable given the cultural dominance of the US in many areas, including on MetaFilter. We're kinda used to it. But if the aim is to be welcoming and engaging, defining your acronyms is a simple and easy thing you can do.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:18 PM on March 30 [10 favorites]


It took me a while to learn that POS in the context of retail doesn't (usually) mean "piece of shit"

To me it will always be “Parent Over Shoulder,” from those early 90s
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR CHILDREN ARE DOING ON THE INTERNET
news items designed to scare parents, as in “they use new online chat slang terms, like POS to indicate that they can’t chat openly because you've come into the room."
posted by chococat at 1:24 PM on March 30 [4 favorites]


I didn't realize this was a British English thing. And I guess it's to indicate the difference between an abbreviation and an acronym?

More or less. There's no unanimity on this and different publications have different style guides. But for example here are the BBC and Guardian style guides, with some bolding on my part...

BBC:
acronyms

Use the abbreviated form of a title without explanation only if there is no chance of any misunderstanding (eg UN, Nato, IRA, BBC). Otherwise, spell it out in full at first reference, or introduce a label (eg the public sector union Unite).

Where you would normally pronounce the abbreviation as a string of letters - an initialism - use all capitals with no full stops or spaces (eg FA, UNHCR). However, our style is to use lower case with an initial cap for acronyms where you would normally pronounce the set of letters as a word (eg Sars, Mers, Aids, Nafta, Nasa, Opec, Apec).

There are a few exceptions:

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is capped up ie NICE
The UK Independence Party is capped up ie UKIP
Strategic Health Authority becomes SHA ("Sha" looks like a typo)
Seasonal Affective Disorder becomes SAD ("Sad" would be confusing).

For names with initials, we avoid full stops and spaces (ie JK Rowling and WH Smith).

When abbreviating a phrase, rather than a name or title, use lower case (ie lbw, mph).
(me: note that "IRA" is listed above as an acronym for which there is "no chance of any misunderstanding")

Guardian:
abbreviations and acronyms

Do not use full points in abbreviations, or spaces between initials, including those in proper names: IMF, mph, eg, 4am, M&S, No 10, AN Wilson, WH Smith, etc.

Use all capitals if an abbreviation is pronounced as the individual letters (an initialism): BBC, CEO, US, VAT, etc; if it is an acronym (pronounced as a word) spell out with initial capital, eg Nasa, Nato, Unicef, unless it can be considered to have entered the language as an everyday word, such as awol, laser and, more recently, asbo, pin number and sim card. Note that pdf and plc are lowercase.
Again, it's not consistent across the board - for example the BBC specifically lists "SAD" as an acronym that should be in all-caps to avoid confusion, while the Guardian specifically lists "Sad" as an example of an acronym that isn't capitalized throughout. The Guardian's lack of exceptions to avoid confusion makes for interesting times, for example when ICE (the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency) was in the news a lot and you'd see headlines like "Ice reached a new low".

Anyway, both guides say writers should define the terms first before introducing abbreviations, though as a reader I can testify that their commitment to enforcing that standard is not 100%.

(New bits of English I learned from these: apparently a "full point" (the Guardian's term) is the same as a "full stop" (the BBC's choice, which I was aware of), which is the same as a period (US term) - the dot at the end of a sentence. And apparently "capped up" can be used to mean "capitalized"?)
posted by trig at 2:38 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


And apparently "capped up" can be used to mean "capitalized"?

In striking contrast to the vernacular "capped," as in "Yeah, Freddy's dead. He got capped last night."

Separated by a common language, indeed.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:46 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


And now, can't you "cap" for someone, like stand up for them? I heard this recently but I'm not so young so 🤷🏻
posted by tiny frying pan at 2:56 PM on March 30


"Capped up" strikes me as journalistic and print-shop jargon. Similarly, "full point" had widespread usage at some point in the past but now I always see "full stop".

TFP: in Gen Z, cap means lie. One might cap to protect one's friend. Or end a sentence with "no cap" to affirm veracity.
posted by Klipspringer at 3:00 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


LOL, THNX
posted by tiny frying pan at 3:01 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


I heartily endorse the request, and the good-natured ribbing. It is good-natured, right?
posted by theora55 at 3:12 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]




POS in the context of retail doesn't (usually) mean "piece of shit"

That one always amuses me because back when the first POS systems started coming out in the 90s they really were pieces of shit.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:25 PM on March 30 [4 favorites]


InChI.
InChI=1S/C21H30O2/c1-5-6-7-8-15-12-18(22)20-16-11-14(2)9-10-17(16)21(3,4)23-19(20)13-15/h11-13,16-17,22H,5-10H2,1-4H3/t16-,17-/m1/s1 check
Key:CYQFCXCEBYINGO-IAGOWNOFSA-N

or
(6aR,10aR)-delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol; (−)-trans-Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol;

THC.
posted by clavdivs at 4:28 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


InChI=1S/C21H30O2/c1-5-6-7-8-15-12-18(22)20-16-11-14(2)9-10-17(16)21(3,4)23-19(20)13-15/h11-13,16-17,22H,5-10H2,1-4H3/t16-,17-/m1/s1 check
Key:CYQFCXCEBYINGO-IAGOWNOFSA-N


HEY! You take back what you just said about my mother!
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:35 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


"NSAID" is said as "en-sed," for the person who asked above.
posted by lapis at 5:28 PM on March 30 [6 favorites]


Hey I resemble that remark!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:07 PM on March 30 [15 favorites]


Epon-on-Epon!

just said about my mother!

MOM.
posted by clavdivs at 6:10 PM on March 30


On porn sites, BBC does not refer to the British Broadcasting Corporation. Or so I'm told.
posted by in278s at 6:13 PM on March 30 [5 favorites]


That one always amuses me because back when the first POS systems started coming out in the 90s they really were pieces of shit.

Yeah, I think the reason it took me so long to catch on was that the first place I saw it frequently was back in the day on Waiter Rant, a blog where the "piece of shit" reading was usually a pretty good fit for the tone.
posted by trig at 6:15 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


It took me a while to learn that POS in the context of retail doesn't (usually) mean "piece of shit"...

...although given the quality and reliability of most point-of-sale software, it might as well!
posted by adrienneleigh at 6:36 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


I generally wish people gave the context of their posts up front. Like, I see post titles referencing, for instance "the South Coast", and I have to click to see they're talking about Australia or something. Same for the US, UK, etc. Don't assume everybody's in the same part of the world as you are.
posted by signal at 7:07 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


Every day I get emails from managers in our South American countries telling me they will "FU later this week" (they all use English in business correspondence even though it's a majority-Spanish-speaking company)

I really wish I could tell them why they should change that, but they're my superiors, so.
posted by tzikeh at 7:42 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


Follow up? (My first guess was Fax You)
posted by trig at 7:46 PM on March 30


I see you schedule Google Meets
With attached spreadsheets
And I'm like, FU
(ooh ooh ooh)
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted at 5:23 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]


My company works in educational spaces and occasionally posts about advocating for CTE without defining it first. In context, that's "Career and Technical Education", but I think the far more known definition is "chronic traumatic encephalopathy", which is the condition athletes get (primarily football (any kind of football!)) from repeated head injuries.
posted by LionIndex at 8:50 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


What I'm hearing here is that MetaFilter is a land of contexts.
posted by cupcakeninja at 9:40 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]


ITYM "LOC"

HTH. HAND.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:53 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


On porn sites, BBC does not refer to the British Broadcasting Corporation. Or so I'm told.

And on library sites, BBW just stands for Banned Books Week and it took a long time to convince ALA (American Library Association) to stop using the acronym has a hashtag. Librarians loooooove their acronyms and it's hard trying to figure out when you're using something that most people would know or could easily get from context (i.e. in an informal library publication, you probably wouldn't spell out ALA) and when you should be more careful. I, too, tripped over SBF even though I've been following the case.

And I agree it is a useful part of being inclusive, though, as with all inclusivity, being understanding of people's contexts (sometimes people on mobile have a harder time typing out longer names/words etc. Only mentioning since it's a thing that comes up in modtown sometimes) is good to know moving forward. Thanks for making this post, it's always a good thing to be reminded of.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:59 AM on March 31 [5 favorites]


trig: Follow up? (My first guess was Fax You)

Yeah, follow up. Not nearly as hilarious/horrifying
posted by tzikeh at 12:56 PM on March 31


Librarians loooooove their acronyms

I didn't believe how serious the problem was until I heard librarians telling patrons to look things up on the OPAC. [pronounced as if "opaque" rhymed with "quack."]

Now, I will concede that it's hard to know the right terminology to use - we don't have card catalogues anymore, and "catalogue" is confusing for someone whose main point of reference is the L. L. Bean catalogue*, but "electronic catalogue" or "computer catalogue" should be adequate...

* [you laugh, but I have had a patron cuss me out for telling her she couldn't put in "742 Evergreen Terrace" where the form said "email address"]
posted by Jeanne at 1:43 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]


When my father was retired from the British Navy aged fifty he hawked himself around various [defense] companies. In one interview he was asked what he thought of TWI. He nodded to signal 'I am considering the problem' and then confided that he thought TWI was, in certain circumstances, generally, a Good Thing. It took him some (pre-Google) time that evening to discover that he approved of Training Within Industry.
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:25 PM on March 31 [3 favorites]


I support this post very much.

In my space news updates I try to spell out every acronym beforehand and link to a source. Man, there are a lot in that, er, space.
posted by doctornemo at 3:33 PM on March 31


I support this idea very much, I've been confused before.

I was recently stymied by IOP

Internet of Penguins?
posted by mmoncur at 2:54 AM on April 1 [5 favorites]


I was recently stymied by IOP

Isle of Palms, SC?
posted by thivaia at 7:30 AM on April 1


BobTheScientist: In one interview he was asked what he thought of TWI. He nodded to signal 'I am considering the problem' and then confided that he thought TWI was, in certain circumstances, generally, a Good Thing. It took him some (pre-Google) time that evening to discover that he approved of Training Within Industry.

So... I'm going to assume that is not what he thought it meant, but what did he think it meant? Or did he just not know?
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:59 AM on April 1


I googled it, apparently its some sort of financial instrument?

This comment inadvertently (I think?) demonstrates that just having the term defined somewhere in the thread (it already was, prior to the comment biffa was responding to - just two comments earlier, in fact) may not be enough. But I'm not sure it's reasonable to ask every single user of an acronym/initialism to define it within their own comment if its use in the thread has already been established.
posted by solotoro at 8:38 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


This comment inadvertently (I think?) demonstrates that just having the term defined somewhere in the thread ... may not be enough

Yeah, in terms of general (not Metafilter-specific) solutions maybe this is something that AI could actually be a nice use for - a browser extension or sidebar that could automatically suggest the most likely definitions for an abbreviation or term given the context the reader is in (current webpage/thread, linked sites, etc.). I guess AI isn't even particularly necessary - I don't know enough about LLMs to know if they would actually enable anything here that wouldn't be possible otherwise.

Out of curiosity I checked whether Firefox has any extensions along those lines. There seem to be a few, but I haven't tried any of them out.
posted by trig at 8:50 AM on April 1


Uh.

No thanks.
posted by cmyk at 9:59 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


My son needs these for his job.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:45 PM on April 1


This did not happen here, but I was recently stymied by IOP, and had to ask someone privately what it stood for. In this case, it stood for intensive outpatient program

This is super not common knowledge either; I was a week into residency on a hospital unit that frequently referred to IOP and PHP before I screwed up the courage to ask what those meant… (PHP stands for partial hospitalization program)

My research advisor tried to introduce the “acro-knock,” where if someone used an acronym you didn’t understand you could knock on the table and it would clue the person in that they need to define their acronyms, but it never really caught on.
posted by brook horse at 4:15 PM on April 1 [5 favorites]


I support this suggestion wholeheartedly, in the sense that I strongly agree it should be done, without any expectation it will happen. Between region-specific (especially US) and industry-specific terms, I'm regularly having to figure out from context or search the Internet to figure out what people are trying to say. This is not conducive to effective communication.

while most people read CBT as "cognitive behavior therapy" there are some of us degenerates out here who read it as "cock and ball torture"?
Depending on where your career has taken you, it may also read as Competency Based Training.
posted by dg at 10:48 PM on April 1 [5 favorites]


Is there an inappropriate reading of CBL I can think fondly on to amuse myself when my company assigns another Computer-Based Learning?
posted by brook horse at 6:39 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


My research advisor tried to introduce the “acro-knock,” where if someone used an acronym you didn’t understand you could knock on the table

The most acronym-intensive environments I've been in include NASA and the military, where this would not go over well.
posted by Rash at 7:13 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


And now, can't you "cap" for someone, like stand up for them?

You may have heard "cape", which means to defend or protect someone (sometimes with the implication that the person does not deserve defense), as in a hero wearing a cape.
posted by birthday cake at 10:31 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]




And now, can't you "cap" for someone, like stand up for them? I heard this recently but I'm not so young

I'm not aware of this usage, but I grew up with the usage of 'cap on' someone, meaning to insult, denigrate, or belittle. Someone who performs the action of 'capping' is a 'capper.' That person 'has caps,' meaning they have either the ability or vocabulary to deftly perform the act of capping.

This might be intensely San Francisco regionalism from the late 70s through the early 80s, but it was pretty prevalent even in high school in the late 80s.

That is to say: "I heard this a long time ago [and still use it], but I'm not so young."
posted by majick at 6:35 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]


(never mind: dupe comment.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:15 AM on April 4


Okay this is where i get to express my annoyance with at the ADA., The American Dental Assoc was founded in 1859, and has always been known as the ADA. 1990 comes along and now everyone insists than the ADA is, of course, the very worthy, but IMO poorly named Americans with Disabilities Act. Not really a rant, but c'mon, it's not like the authors of the act would have had that much trouble finding that ADA was already an established thing. sheesh.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:43 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


It’s time to curb triple-digit inflation, The Economist, Mar 30th 2024
The use of abbreviations has gone too far
On March 28th Sam Bankman-Fried was sentenced to 25 years in prison for fraud in the collapse of his crypto exchange. One particularly undignified aspect of the cryptocurrency crash has been the habit of referring to Mr Bankman-Fried as SBF. This triple-initialising has become ubiquitous in America. Hillary Rodham Clinton likes to be known as HRC, while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive member of Congress, is widely called AOC (confusing the French, who take this to refer to wine and cheese of appellation d’origine contrôlée). On the far right Marjorie Taylor Greene, a conspiracy-theorist member of Congress from Georgia, styles herself on social media as MTG. The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Supreme Court justice, became, to her bemused surprise, the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary entitled “RBG”. Now the court has KBJ (Ketanji Brown Jackson).
posted by Klipspringer at 3:36 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Would “triple-digit inflation” be abbreviated as TDI or 3DI?
posted by Vatnesine at 9:22 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


...while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive member of Congress, is widely called AOC...
On Jeopardy the other night, the contestant responded with 'Who is AOC' to one of the 'answers', and it was accepted; so if it's ok for Jeopardy...?
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 3:38 PM on April 6


But you have to buy two vowels to spell AOC on Jeopardy. That's hardly ok, ATC.*

*(All Things Considered)
posted by y2karl at 9:22 AM on April 13


« Older MeFi Nonprofit Update, March 26, 2024   |   MetaMixTapes: Cats Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments