Posted by: Jack Henry | July 6, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Q&A on Acronyms

Dear readers,

I bought a book a couple of weeks ago, the second I found out about it. It is from the Chicago Manual of Style and is based on their monthly Q&A section. I read through it eagerly and look forward to bringing bits and pieces of it to you. It’s called But Can I Start a Sentence with “But”? Advice from the Chicago Manual of Style Q&A. Today’s two entries are about acronyms.

Q. I am proofing an engineering document. There is a section titled “System Engineering Instructions Team (SEIT).” However, this acronym is already defined in the body of a previous section. The argument is that the section in question should simply be titled “SEIT.” However, I don’t think the section title should be reduced to “SEIT” because the reader may not know what SEIT means upon first glance at the table of contents. I say it’s okay to redefine the acronym if it suddenly becomes the title of a major section. Is it ever okay to redefine an acronym after it has already been defined?

A. Of course it’s okay! What good is a rule that says you can’t help the reader when it seems like a good idea? Redefine an acronym whenever a reader might reasonably have forgotten it.

Q. When you write about a GIF in a text, can you just refer to it as a GIF on first reference or do you have to write “graphic interchange format (GIF)”? I don’t think the long version is actually helpful; more people know it as GIF. And I’d be using it as a noun.

A. You never have to do anything that isn’t helpful. If a style guide says you do, you need a better guide.

And now, more from our photo contest in April and May.

From Amber Batriz:

And from George Duda:

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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