22 votes

Suggestion for users: avoiding excessive use of acronyms

The internet slang is full of acronyms. Some are harmless and well known, such as "lol" or "IMHO", but others not so much. Tildes is explicit by design, with a preference for clear text labels instead of icons. In my opinion, that's a great design choice, and maybe we should take inspiration from that in our communications. On Reddit, it's common to find obscure acronyms. Some subs require glossaries to understand their particular lingo. Sometimes this is necessary, but, in excess, acronyms can be annoying and even excluding, especially for non-native speakers. Because there are situations in which the use of acronyms is required, I don't think there should be a rule on the matter. That's merely a suggestion. What you lovely Tilda Swintons™ think about it?

47 comments

  1. [19]
    edward (edited ) Link
    You can use a link to nowhere to provide the meanings of acronyms on hover. [IMHO](# "In my honest opinion") Becomes IMHO, which doesn't go anywhere*, but shows the provided text when you hover...

    You can use a link to nowhere to provide the meanings of acronyms on hover.

    [IMHO](# "In my honest opinion")
    

    Becomes IMHO, which doesn't go anywhere*, but shows the provided text when you hover over it.

    *Edit: it scrolls to the top of the page, but you can get the id of your comment after posting it and change the # to that, so #comment-3197 for this comment

    @Deimos, it would be nice to have some support for the abbr tag, either by converting that specific formatting (an empty link) to it or by adding it to the supported "HTML-exclusive formatting" tags.

    12 votes
    1. [8]
      Bauke Link Parent
      The problem with using hover as a mechanic to display information is that it isn't obvious nor accessible. When using a link for it, expectations are that when you click on it you go somewhere....

      The problem with using hover as a mechanic to display information is that it isn't obvious nor accessible.

      When using a link for it, expectations are that when you click on it you go somewhere. Which when using [text](# more text) the link will become https://tildes.net/<topic info>#, taking you to the top of the page.

      On mobile you can't hover so it'll be inaccessible to a lot of people.

      18 votes
      1. [6]
        cfabbro (edited ) Link Parent
        Yeah, hover is problematic. From another comment of mine from ages ago: @mrbig, in most cases acronyms can just be googled if you don't know what they mean, and not using them is often a PITA...

        Yeah, hover is problematic. From another comment of mine from ages ago:

        Some touchscreen browsers do actually support a psuedo-hover of sorts where touching an element with a hover or focus event will actually activate them and have the hover message stay open / element stay focused until you do something else. But even in browsers that support that, it either doesn't work when an onclick event is also tied to the same element (e.g. on hyperlinks) since the onclick activates instead, or requires shortpress+drag on the element so only the hover/focus event activates but not the onclick event.

        Regardless, relying on hover is really not ideal since there doesn't appear to be any universal standards for handling hover across the various browsers for touchscreen devices, and accessibility is a huge problem with them even on desktop, so hover should generally be avoided at all costs, IMO.


        @mrbig, in most cases acronyms can just be googled if you don't know what they mean, and not using them is often a PITA (pain in the ass), especially when what they are short for is extremely long and/or you need to use them several times in the same paragraph. But when an acronym is somewhat obscure or very domain specific, making them potentially harder to google, I usually try to spell the full meaning out the first time I use them and only subsequently use the acronym. E.g.

        The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) today identified several critical missions. JSOC Commander Fakename McMadeup issued the following statement, "I don't actually exist!"

        9 votes
        1. [5]
          mrbig Link Parent
          I agree and that's what I do. What I meant to address was the excessive use of acronyms, because in that case the constant searching would hinder the reading flow.

          @mrbig, in most cases acronyms can just be googled if you don't know what they mean

          I agree and that's what I do. What I meant to address was the excessive use of acronyms, because in that case the constant searching would hinder the reading flow.

          1 vote
          1. [4]
            cfabbro (edited ) Link Parent
            It only hinders your reading flow if you are unfamiliar with the acronyms, but that is something that can be remedied by learning what they mean. And because of that, what is excessive to one...

            It only hinders your reading flow if you are unfamiliar with the acronyms, but that is something that can be remedied by learning what they mean. And because of that, what is excessive to one person is not necessarily excessive to another who is more familiar with the subject being discussed.

            And I also think it's worth noting that if Tildes develops in the way that it's hoped (similar to usenet) then ideally many highly technical niche communities will exist here, and not all of those communities are going to be meant for layman to understand what is being discussed in them... nor should they be.

            E.g. If ~science.forensics.comp is eventually created I am not going to spell out what EnCE, Exif or FDC means every time I say them, because it will be assumed that other people in that group already know what they mean... unless it's a thread specifically meant for an outsider to understand (e.g. an "ask" topic posted by a layman).

            6 votes
            1. [3]
              mrbig Link Parent
              I agree that there are many situations in which acronyms are required.

              I agree that there are many situations in which acronyms are required.

              1 vote
              1. [2]
                cfabbro Link Parent
                BTW, even though I'm being somewhat critical and nitpicky, I do understand where you're coming from. As I said, when I use acronyms that are obscure or domain knowledge based, especially when I am...

                BTW, even though I'm being somewhat critical and nitpicky, I do understand where you're coming from. As I said, when I use acronyms that are obscure or domain knowledge based, especially when I am talking to someone I know is not familiar with them, I do try to spell them out at least once before switching to the acronym form... which I think is pretty good advice for everyone regarding their use.

                6 votes
                1. mrbig Link Parent
                  This seems like a good compromise. Besides, what I was trying to address was not justified situations like the ones you're describing, but when the use of acronyms is not justified by a truly...

                  This seems like a good compromise. Besides, what I was trying to address was not justified situations like the ones you're describing, but when the use of acronyms is not justified by a truly complex or specialized subject matter.

                  1 vote
      2. edward Link Parent
        That's why I said the abbr tag should be supported, obviously the link solution is a little hacky and unintuitive for readers. On the other hand the abbr tag has default styling that tells you...

        That's why I said the abbr tag should be supported, obviously the link solution is a little hacky and unintuitive for readers. On the other hand the abbr tag has default styling that tells you there is hover text (dotted underline).

        As for mobile, it's kind of annoying that it doesn't support the abbr tag (or I guess title text in general). This article proposes a bit of a hacky solution (adding the title text in parentheses as ::after content).

        3 votes
    2. cadadr Link Parent
      For me I often use these USENET acronyms to save some typing. If you'll put the effort in to just type out the whole thing, what's the point of the acronym in the first place? Edit: That H stands...

      For me I often use these USENET acronyms to save some typing. If you'll put the effort in to just type out the whole thing, what's the point of the acronym in the first place?

      Edit: That H stands for "humble" BTW.

      3 votes
    3. [4]
      Deimos (edited ) Link Parent
      I could add <abbr> as an HTML-only option, but it's pretty annoying to type them out (so people would almost never bother doing it) and I'm not sure how useful it is overall. It doesn't seem to...

      I could add <abbr> as an HTML-only option, but it's pretty annoying to type them out (so people would almost never bother doing it) and I'm not sure how useful it is overall. It doesn't seem to have any support in mobile Chrome or Firefox at all, I can't figure out any way to get the title to appear.

      Edit: This seems to be the relevant issue on the Firefox tracker, but I don't see any specific plans for fixing it yet.

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        9000 Link Parent
        On Firefox for Android, I can long press the link, and the title text will show up above a bunch of options for interacting with the link. It's not an intuitive UX flow, and I don't believe it...

        On Firefox for Android, I can long press the link, and the title text will show up above a bunch of options for interacting with the link. It's not an intuitive UX flow, and I don't believe it handles long title text well, but I can technically get it to work. (I have disabled Chrome on my Android device, so I can't test it there).

        1. [2]
          Deimos Link Parent
          For links with a title, yes. Not <abbr> tags though - on this page on MDN, there should be a way to get "Cascading Style Sheets" to show up for the "CSS" in the demo output right at the top. On...

          For links with a title, yes. Not <abbr> tags though - on this page on MDN, there should be a way to get "Cascading Style Sheets" to show up for the "CSS" in the demo output right at the top. On desktop you hover over it, but I can't figure out any way to get it to show on mobile. Long press just selects it and gives me the options to Copy and etc.

          3 votes
          1. 9000 Link Parent
            Ah, I see what you're saying. I cannot get it to work either.

            Ah, I see what you're saying. I cannot get it to work either.

            1 vote
    4. dredmorbius (edited ) Link Parent
      DNWFM: Chrome/Android. (Does not work for me)

      DNWFM: Chrome/Android.

      (Does not work for me)

      1 vote
    5. [3]
      jlpoole Link Parent
      What happens when this page is printed on paper? The hover definition disappears.

      What happens when this page is printed on paper? The hover definition disappears.

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        ali Link Parent
        Why is this a concern? I struggle to find a use case in which someone prints a tildes comment page. I mean normal links would also disappear if you print them.

        Why is this a concern? I struggle to find a use case in which someone prints a tildes comment page. I mean normal links would also disappear if you print them.

        5 votes
        1. jlpoole Link Parent
          Yes, but links are not designed to explain, they are there to assist the reader should the reader want to learn more -- operative "more". The use of hover/linking to provide contextual meaning or...

          Yes, but links are not designed to explain, they are there to assist the reader should the reader want to learn more -- operative "more". The use of hover/linking to provide contextual meaning or explanation or definition is an adoption of a mechanism to achieve something it was not designed for and to provide an excuse for writers who cannot be bothered to define what they publish. Your determination of use case may satisfy you, but its not not a conclusion universally shared.

          When you publish something, you should not send your reader on a hunt to understand what it is you are writing about.

    6. culturedleftfoot Link Parent
      That's potentially useful in one-off situations, but it's twice the work, no?

      That's potentially useful in one-off situations, but it's twice the work, no?

  2. [3]
    eve Link
    I personally don't think it's an issue on tildes. As a lurker, I see a lot of content and comments and posts and people aren't really even using acronyms beyond the very common and obvious ones....

    I personally don't think it's an issue on tildes. As a lurker, I see a lot of content and comments and posts and people aren't really even using acronyms beyond the very common and obvious ones. To me, this is a non-issue. I think that the way tildes handles itself inherently discourages very informal slang and the use of acronyms in most forms. From my time here with all us Tildoianorinos Swintons, we/they DON'T use an excessive amount of acronyms. Unlike reddit, there aren't these exclusive and hyper specific communities with too much jargon and a whole index dedicated to deciphering any information on the subject.

    I see no point to the suggestion. If there were an excess of acronyms within the different communities and threads, I would agree with you. But that isn't the case from what I have seen here. If an acronym truly and really needs to be described, do it academically (ex: "Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is complete..."). This can help avoid the issue of people not understanding if a word or phrase or whatever has a hover and allows it to be visible in plain text. And if someone needs clarification on an acronym for whatever reason, and can't find it on the internet, than they can easily address this to the user in question privately or publicly.

    If it ever becomes a real concern, than sure. Or just something to keep in mind but I think it's fine as is.

    12 votes
    1. [2]
      mrbig (edited ) Link Parent
      I agree with you that currently this is not an issue on Tildes. I'm sorry if my choice of words made it sound otherwise. I was thinking about the feature development of the community. Like you...

      I agree with you that currently this is not an issue on Tildes. I'm sorry if my choice of words made it sound otherwise. I was thinking about the feature development of the community. Like you said, maybe there really is no point in this suggestion. This is just something that bothers me in other places and I wished to discuss here, because since we're a relatively new online space there's more openness to mold our collective habits through constructive discussion.

      3 votes
      1. eve (edited ) Link Parent
        No worries. Part of tildes is wording consideration. I think posting it as a discussion point would have made me inherently read what you were saying as something to consider as opposed to reading...

        No worries. Part of tildes is wording consideration. I think posting it as a discussion point would have made me inherently read what you were saying as something to consider as opposed to reading it as a suggestion for something that is a concern in the here and now. Pedantry is definitely an aspect of Tildes.

        In regards to acronyms, it'd be something of concern in the future as the user base grew and perhaps there'd be more people less concerned about that sort of thing. As for any future implementation, it'd probably be dependent on how the site evolved as more users came to the site.

        4 votes
  3. [9]
    Algernon_Asimov Link
    "Lots of love"? :P In many fields, it's common to find obscure initialisms (of which acronyms are only a subset). I've seen "CBT" used in a psychology-related subreddit because that's a technical...

    Some are harmless and well known, such as "lol"

    "Lots of love"? :P

    On Reddit, it's common to find obscure acronyms.

    In many fields, it's common to find obscure initialisms (of which acronyms are only a subset). I've seen "CBT" used in a psychology-related subreddit because that's a technical term in the field of psychology - and that can be a problematic initialism to look up because a second popular meaning is definitely adults-only. And, in these early days of Tildes, where every second Tilder works in IT Information Technology, the number of technology-related initialisms abounds. Initialisms are not restricted to online lingo - they're everywhere! I agree it's annoying.

    But I don't think we should ban them.

    Tildes is explicit by design, with a preference for clear text labels instead of icons.

    I have been quietly changing some tags on topics here, to replace initialisms with full phrases.

    acronyms can be annoying and even excluding, especially for non-native speakers.

    I learned a rule way back in high school: if you're going to use an initialism in your writing, spell it out the first time you use it. It would be nice if more people did that around here.

    We also have to acknowledge that a lot of people these days are using mobile devices to access websites like Tildes, which means it's more difficult to type. These people almost need to use abbreviations.

    8 votes
    1. [5]
      cfabbro Link Parent
      Ditto... although some are rather unwieldy in their full form and so I leave them. E.g. In ~music edm = Electronic Dance Music, idm = intelligent dance music, etc. That's a lot of space for one...

      I have been quietly changing some tags on topics here, to replace initialisms with full phrases.

      Ditto... although some are rather unwieldy in their full form and so I leave them. E.g. In ~music edm = Electronic Dance Music, idm = intelligent dance music, etc. That's a lot of space for one tag to take up and the vast majority of music users should know what they means anyways. And similarly in ~comp cpu = central processing unit, ram = random access memory, etc. Also incredibly well known and pointless to change.

      4 votes
      1. [4]
        frickindeal Link Parent
        Not to argue unnecessarily, but I'm an avid music fan and had no idea what idm means because I'm not into dance music. But that's really no different than me not knowing the difference between...

        Not to argue unnecessarily, but I'm an avid music fan and had no idea what idm means because I'm not into dance music. But that's really no different than me not knowing the difference between trap music and house music or whatever other categorization people apply to music.

        5 votes
        1. [3]
          firstname Link Parent
          I am going to assume you meant EDM(electronic dance music), Electronic music, and especially EDM is often, at least for me, extremely hard to put into category's and genres. If you would create a...

          I am going to assume you meant EDM(electronic dance music), Electronic music, and especially EDM is often, at least for me, extremely hard to put into category's and genres. If you would create a map of all the different names and genres it would almost be endless at this point. There are hundreds different types of EDM, and fusions of them, EDM is definitely in its own class of confusion. And it does not help that new types and genres pop up all the time. There is also a common occurrence of elitism when it comes to naming electronic music genres, perhaps a necessity to keep some order. But it´s also quite annoying in my opinion.

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            aphoenix Link Parent
            No, they meant "idm", as per the parent comment. Your reply is a perfect example of why initialisms are problematic.

            No, they meant "idm", as per the parent comment.

            Your reply is a perfect example of why initialisms are problematic.

            5 votes
            1. firstname (edited ) Link Parent
              Damn, indeed it is. At least i learned a new phrase within the electronic music genres. Question is, will it help me describe music better or just add to the endless confusion? As someone who are...

              Damn, indeed it is. At least i learned a new phrase within the electronic music genres. Question is, will it help me describe music better or just add to the endless confusion? As someone who are "bad with names" it`s hard to tell.

              1 vote
    2. [3]
      mrbig Link Parent
      This a good practice. Yes, typing on mobile is awful! But, if you type something frequently, you define text expansions for it. I know it's not ideal, but can be useful sometimes.

      if you're going to use an initialism in your writing, spell it out the first time you use it

      This a good practice.

      Yes, typing on mobile is awful! But, if you type something frequently, you define text expansions for it. I know it's not ideal, but can be useful sometimes.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
        Maybe you do, but I don't. I'm only vaguely aware of what you're referring to, and it's not a feature I would use even if I knew how. And I'm guessing I'm not alone in not using this feature.

        if you type something frequently, you define text expansions for it.

        Maybe you do, but I don't. I'm only vaguely aware of what you're referring to, and it's not a feature I would use even if I knew how. And I'm guessing I'm not alone in not using this feature.

        1 vote
        1. mrbig Link Parent
          Absolutely.

          Absolutely.

          1 vote
  4. [4]
    Neverland (edited ) Link
    The only good technological solution I’ve seen for this problem is on r/spacex. They use a bot, u/decronym to post a single comment after a while with an acronym legend. This solution works great...

    The only good technological solution I’ve seen for this problem is on r/spacex. They use a bot, u/decronym to post a single comment after a while with an acronym legend. This solution works great for that specific knowledge domain, space and spacex. I don’t think it would be great for all domains.

    I think the solution is one of user convention. I try to always spell it out, at least the first time. Say it was PPC, and I used it more than once in a body of text. I would write “Pay per Click (PPC).” Then use PPC later in the text.

    6 votes
    1. [3]
      Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
      Probably not. My favourite example of ambiguity in initialisms is “CBT”, which has very different meanings in the fields of psychology and sex. A so-called decronym bot would have to be...

      I don’t think it would be great for all domains.

      Probably not. My favourite example of ambiguity in initialisms is “CBT”, which has very different meanings in the fields of psychology and sex.

      A so-called decronym bot would have to be intelligent enough to interpret the linguistic context in which an initialism is being used, in order to begin guessing an appropriate expansion for it.

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        Neverland Link Parent
        How about just ABC. It completely depends on the geo-context of the conversation, and that’s just thinking of TV networks. You’re right, a bot capable of this might need near Artifical General...

        How about just ABC. It completely depends on the geo-context of the conversation, and that’s just thinking of TV networks. You’re right, a bot capable of this might need near Artifical General Intelligence levels of natural language processing.

        3 votes
        1. Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
          Of course! I'm always having to write “Australian Broadcasting Corporation” in full, so as to avoid confusing our poor American Tilders.

          How about just ABC.

          Of course! I'm always having to write “Australian Broadcasting Corporation” in full, so as to avoid confusing our poor American Tilders.

          4 votes
  5. [3]
    firstname Link
    As someone with a quite limited vocabulary, none native English speaker/writer, with a lower class education, i cherished the culture of "correct" writing that i used to see on reddit in its...

    As someone with a quite limited vocabulary, none native English speaker/writer, with a lower class education, i cherished the culture of "correct" writing that i used to see on reddit in its earlier days. it was part of the appeal. I am new here on Tildes, but i can see that this type of communication etiquette is important here.

    From my point of view this is an opportunity to learn from all of you with better trained skills. I often rewrite my comments over and over, to show respect, and to try and uphold the culture of good communication which i think is important.

    Acronyms often are perceived as sloppy writing, of course that's not always the case. But it is something to consider.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
      No, it's not. Initialisms do have their place. But, like every tool in the English language, they have to be used appropriately and carefully.

      Acronyms often are perceived as sloppy writing, of course that's not always the case.

      No, it's not. Initialisms do have their place. But, like every tool in the English language, they have to be used appropriately and carefully.

      2 votes
      1. firstname Link Parent
        I agree with you, maybe often was the wrong word of choice. But i do think some people perceive them as, lets rephrase, lazy writing. It would most likely be a person who do not understand how...

        I agree with you, maybe often was the wrong word of choice. But i do think some people perceive them as, lets rephrase, lazy writing. It would most likely be a person who do not understand how they work or how to use them i guess.

        1 vote
  6. cadadr Link
    I think that's a stylistic choice and it'd be too far reaching to have a rule or an official suggestion governing that. I use a few of them (IMHO, OTOH, BTW, w.r.t./WRT, FWIW, FYI, AFAIK, AFAIU,...

    I think that's a stylistic choice and it'd be too far reaching to have a rule or an official suggestion governing that. I use a few of them (IMHO, OTOH, BTW, w.r.t./WRT, FWIW, FYI, AFAIK, AFAIU, IIRC are the ones I can tell off the top of my head), they are nice shorthands. They are also "acts of identity", i.e. speech acts, that are an integral part of the hacker culture, so that is significan in some ways for the hacker folk (that includes me too, FWIW). I should acknowledge the overuse of these acronyms is off-putting and that it harms communication tho.

    Here is a glossary of the "hacker jargon", which includes the definition of most of internet acronyms.

    5 votes
  7. lordpipe (edited ) Link
    There are always some pretty ridiculous acronyms in story subreddits. /r/BPDlovedones, /r/talesfromtechsupport, /r/JustNoMIL, /r/EntitledParents are some of the most heinous examples. You have a...

    There are always some pretty ridiculous acronyms in story subreddits. /r/BPDlovedones, /r/talesfromtechsupport, /r/JustNoMIL, /r/EntitledParents are some of the most heinous examples. You have a mixture of common subreddit acronyms and acronyms the OP made up on the spot, sometimes with a glossary included and sometimes not. If it's a particularly long story you have to constantly scroll all the way back up to the OP's glossary. Sometimes, the OP's acronyms for people is literally just the OP's feeling about the person i.e. "PB = Psycho Bitch" "K = Karen (not actually named karen)"

    That kind of acronym use is definitely what I would prefer to avoid and discourage. Keyboard keys don't wear down that fast.

    5 votes
  8. [7]
    jlpoole Link
    In legal writing, acronyms are used often, but only if the acronym is defined at the first instance of words it stands for. Example: Plaintiff John Smith ("SMITH") is a resident of.... SMITH was...

    In legal writing, acronyms are used often, but only if the acronym is defined at the first instance of words it stands for. Example: Plaintiff John Smith ("SMITH") is a resident of.... SMITH was in the vehicle when...

    This has been a very long standing rule. Why it cannot apply to social media interactions is beyond me.

    4 votes
    1. [5]
      Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
      That's not an acronym. An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of other words. For example: “Laser” from “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. “NATO” from “North...

      Plaintiff John Smith ("SMITH") is a resident of.... SMITH

      That's not an acronym. An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of other words. For example:

      • “Laser” from “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”.

      • “NATO” from “North Atlantic Treaty Organization”.

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        jlpoole Link Parent
        You're right, my example does not meet the definition of acronym. Your pointing out my error highlights the resiliency of the policy which can also apply for shortened names, e.g. SMITH. So here's...

        You're right, my example does not meet the definition of acronym. Your pointing out my error highlights the resiliency of the policy which can also apply for shortened names, e.g. SMITH. So here's another example that does meet the definition of an acronym.

        Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA")....

        2 votes
        1. [3]
          Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
          Not to be “that guy“ (except that I was born to be “that guy”), but even “FOIA” isn't an acronym - unless you say it as a word (“foy-a”). Otherwise it's just an ordinary initialism (acronyms are a...

          Not to be “that guy“ (except that I was born to be “that guy”), but even “FOIA” isn't an acronym - unless you say it as a word (“foy-a”). Otherwise it's just an ordinary initialism (acronyms are a subset of initialisms).

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            jlpoole Link Parent
            I didn't know about "initialisms". And, yes, FOIA is pronounced "foy-yah" and used often in conversation. We both learned something. Thank you, "that guy."

            I didn't know about "initialisms". And, yes, FOIA is pronounced "foy-yah" and used often in conversation. We both learned something. Thank you, "that guy."

            7 votes
            1. Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
              Yes, we did. Thanks!

              We both learned something.

              Yes, we did. Thanks!

              2 votes
    2. hamstergeddon Link Parent
      Because social media interactions are brief and informal, not an exchanging of legal documents.

      Because social media interactions are brief and informal, not an exchanging of legal documents.

      2 votes