[Home]AbbreviationsAreEvil

MeatballWiki | RecentChanges | Random Page | Indices | Categories

When trying to write a long or complex thought out quickly, you are tempted to take shortcuts in order to make your life easier with acronyms, abbreviations, or initialisms, replacing longer expressions. Do a few saved keystrokes help?

Wikis exist in the WikiNow, so you have enough time to complete your thought. Abbreviations let the <-> Wiki:TextSmell when writing too quickly, perhaps thinking too quickly. Does ColdBlanket appreciate the rush?

Therefore, Slow down. Step away from your excitement for a while, and reflect on it from a deeper level.

But, by all means use abbreviations elsewhere: mailing lists, chatrooms, emails, instant messenges, text messages, diaries, etc. They can be useful when you need to communicate now - but a wiki should not be one of those places.

Clarity

Acronyms and abbreviations confuse readers. They take time out of the reader's life to decode what you wrote. Some readers may not even know what the acronyms and abbreviations mean. If you are writing with the intent of being widely read, then the cost to the hundreds of readers outweighs the cost to the single author.

Confused readers blame it on a confused author: they are not impressed by the use of abbreviations as academic camoflage: rather they are unimpressed by the author's inability to communicate. You will achieve more by speaking in PlainEnglish?.

Acronyms and abbreviations in LinkPatterns are even worse because it's unlikely the many people who want to link to the page will remember the particular misspelling that the single author chose. This will only mean they will not link to your page, so why did you go through all that effort in writing it? As an example, don't use ReadTFM? when you mean ReadTheFuckingManual? (but don't say that either -- see below)

Therefore, don't use abbreviations. Part of MeatBall's being-in-MeatSpace ethos is the avoidance of net acronyms. Instead of "IMHO", write "in my humble opinion". Whenever you see such an acronym, expand it to its full English text to IncreaseClarity?. If you stumble upon an unknown abbreviation (or word), just ask in plain English, "What does AFAIK mean?" Someone will answer by replacing the acronym with its expansion: see ReplaceQuestionWithAnswer.

Alternatively, use the InterLink? Acronym:AFAIK, or create a ShallowPage that expands the acronym. But this slows the reader down, so is only half a solution: see WhatIsTmesis.

But, some abbreviations are standard, and they are fine. The problem is in knowing which. For instance, technical terms commonly referred to by the acronym such as RFC or ISBN. Organizational names like the w3, the UN, or TheWell. Mathematical terms like sin, cos, and tan are also typically exempted. Sanity must prevail. See BuildInTolerance.

Also, if you are writing to be read by only one or a few people, then you may be able to rely on CommonContext - everyone who reads your writing will know the relevant abbreviations already.

Part of the StyleGuide.

Diff

I was thinking about this the other day, trying to explain where to check for differences on the RecentChanges page. I told them to click on diff - why can't we just make this differences?

partly because "diff" is the name of the unix doodad that runs it.

Actually, there should be no difference between (diff) and (changes). The UseMod interface has been acquiring bad FeatureKarma over the years.

there should be no diff between (diff) and (changes) ;-) but certainly, for non-unixers it's not immediately obvious what "diff" means at first.

yeah, i agree; the term "diff" is confusing unless you know unix; "changes" is better

I don't agree. Pages contain "rss" or "xml" links. You have to learn and know what that means, "diff" is not different. "rich site summary", "extensible markup language" or "difference" won't tell the story either, they are just labels - you have to learn to understand.

Discussion

I find that once I know what an acronym or abbreviation is they just become another word to be read and since they're generaly shorter, quicker to read. On the other hand I tend to scan very quickly when reading, it may be different for people who read more slowly. -- DanielThomas

An observation plagues me - already for months: The use of pagenames has also the negative effect of using abbreviations. Pagenames have often the character of a jargon (a pattern language) that separates regulars (that understand that language) from visitors that don't. Visitors often tell us that they feel bad when pagenames are thrown at them, opening a vast amount of information and ideas they can not cope with or argue against. PagenamesAreAbbreviations. -- HelmutLeitner

I agree 100% Helmet but what can be done? Perhaps trying to force pages to start with definitions of their title? --AndrewCates

A good abstract may improve the situation but I think we must try to move pagenames out of our direct line of arguments into "(see also ...) hints". This would mean more redundancy but it would also be more readable and more friendly towards visitors. -- HelmutLeitner

I don't agree. The problem is not how the text is organized on the page (in general--the "link salad" pages are a problem), but in the interaction between us and the newcomers. The Read The Fucking Manual approach is always rude. My problem is that the Meatball page names have entered my active vocabulary as words. I just use them. -- SunirShah

I doubt they are either Good or Evil. The names themselves are merely 'passive'. In general, I prefer not speculate about the motives of their creator, and I always avoid the Flame Wars that so frequently erupt as a result of provoking an audience.

I think this may be a matter of context and that both views expressed so far have merit. As a Novice, I find that the jargon I do not understand is a barrier to my comprehension. As an Expert, I appreciate both the convenience and the precision that jargon adds to an information exchange. (With experience, I find I am more often in the Novice camp than the Expert camp, but then that is partly because I enjoy learning new things.)

I have been thinking for some time that it might be helpful to have a way of categorizing a Page within a set of expertise levels that recognize the needs of an intended Audience. After all, one of the most important maxims for effective communications is "Know your audience" (and tailor you message for their needs). This is one example of the type of PageMetaDataTag? that I have been trying to add to the pages that I now edit or create. -- HansWobbe


See Wiki:MeaningfulName


CategoryStyle

Discussion

MeatballWiki | RecentChanges | Random Page | Indices | Categories
Edit text of this page | View other revisions | Search MetaWiki
Search: