Don't Acronymize Your Users

As a commenter noted in my previous post on how not to give a presentation, I have another complaint about software development presentations that I didn't list. They're chock full of meaningless acronyms. SOAP, BI, SOA, RDBMS, SGML, CRUD, RMS, RDBMS, XML, ORM, FAQ. I appreciate the need for brevity on slides, but can you at least have one slide that explains what the acronym means before giving up on words altogether?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

In HTML, use the accronym title="Accronym Tag"AT/accronym tag liberally (assuming you are using Acronyms).

I hate the resolution acronyms, also. Fortunately the ever-valuable Wikipedia has the translation from marketing to engineering:


When I was in the Military (know for having an acronym for almost everything) it was in our written guidelines to always spell it out first with the acronym followed in parenthesis before you every used the acronym on its own. I still use this technique today.

Example: I was in the United States Air Force (USAF). I learned a lot while in the USAF.

Just FYI(!) the page you link to has a tad over 2000 acronyms listed under “Computing: Software Acronyms” - more than enough.

Couldn’t agree more: a href=""

And can we just see the same sort of problems looming for the Core Duo? What’s the next rev of that going to be called? “Core Duo Plus”? “Ultra Core Duo”? “Totally, Like, Awesome Core Duo”?

In editing, we use the same rule that Erik Lane does – spell out on first mention. However, there are some exceptions. Protocols, for example – FTP, HTTP. I have argued when I myself was being edited that for some acronyms, spelling it out doesn’t add any substantive value for the user who doesn’t already know the acronyn. I think FTP fits into that category – if you don’t know what FTP is, spelling it out is very unlikely, in my opinion (IMO), to help you.

For what it’s worth (FWIW), we don’t spell out HTML or XML any more. You have to know your audience, too.

I quite like mp3, which expands to:

Moving Picture Experts Group 1 Audio Layer 3

I can’t quite see what music files have to do with moving pictures though…

In HTML don’t rely on the abbr and acronym tags alone - keyboard users won’t have access to the attribute value, so always expand the acronym/abbreviation in the text, at least on first use.

@Haacked - what’s the AT tag?!

@Dan: Doh! I meant the acronym tag.