Acronyms are well known to those in a community, and not so known to those outside of it. For this reason, new photographers may find new and old questions and answers hard to decipher.

As a general editing rule - when acronyms are used in an answer or post - should they be edited back to their non-abbreviated form?

Or, would it be better to edit the first and leave the rest such that "FOV" becomes "Field-of-View (FOV)" and anyone reading can begin to learn the acronym?

  • I find if I have to google an acnronym, i'll edit the post accordingly... as some aren't necessarily common place. – Crazy Dino Jan 29 at 13:08
up vote 8 down vote accepted

When I use acronyms in an answer I generally try to spell it out the first time I use it and include the acronym in parenthesis. For the remainder of the answer I feel I am free to use the acronym since I have previously explained its meaning.

In your example, the first time I use the term it appears like this: depth of field (DoF). I've told the reader what DoF stands for. The reader should be able to understand what subsequent usage of DoF means.

There are a few acronyms that anyone discussing photography should understand. It should not be necessary to spell out Organisation internationale de normalisation (ISO) or International Organization for Standards/Standardization (ISO) the first time one uses ISO in an answer on a photography site. We should not need to inform the reader that the ISO organization has written many technical standards, technical reports, technical specifications, etc. and that each of these is assigned a number by the ISO or that the three standards that apply to the sensitivity of photographic film are ISO 6, ISO 2240, and ISO 5800.

When editing posts that use acronyms without explanation, I would suggest to follow the practice outlined above: spell it out the first time including both the acronym and the full name, then leave only the acronym at subsequent points in the answer.

  • 1
    +1, although it might be good to point out that it's equally acceptable to use the TLA (three letter abbreviation) with the definition in parenthesis by the first occurrence. To use your example: DoF (depth of field). – Olin Lathrop Jan 24 at 12:26
  • @OlinLathrop Sure, either way. I just personally prefer the former. – Michael C Jan 24 at 21:19

As a general editing rule - when acronyms are used in an answer or post - should they be edited back to their non-abbreviated form?

As a general editing rule, no. There are lots of abbreviations, acronyms, and symbols, and some are more commonly known than others. In some cases (e.g. ISO) the abbreviated version may be better understood than the expanded form. I think the default position should be to trust the author to judge whether something is so commonly known that it should be abbreviated from the outset or whether it should be defined first. If the abbreviation is causing obvious confusion, then it might be appropriate to edit.

Or, would it be better to edit the first and leave the rest such that "FOV" becomes "Field-of-View (FOV)" and anyone reading can begin to learn the acronym?

Defining an acronym and naming it in parentheses is the usual way to do it. Again, though, I wouldn't edit just to enforce that style -- let people write the way they want to.

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