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Use of acronym table?

Use of acronym table?

Use of acronym table?

I have referred to a couple of technical writing books and cannot find an answer to my question. I'll start by stating what I think I know to be true.

When using acronyms in a technical report, it is commmon or expected that you spell out the acronym first followed by the acroynm in paranthesis; example, Field Service Representative (FSR).

Now on to the question. How does this "rule" relate to an acronym table placed at the beginning or end of the document? If you use an acronym table can you skip spelling out all acronyms in the text?

Thanks in advance. Any rules, advice, or assistant are appreciated.

RE: Use of acronym table?

I would appreciate BOTH... Becasue I may just remember FSR for a few pages - set the book down for a week and then have to try to find or remnember what an FSR is..

RE: Use of acronym table?

i'd also go with both.

embedded in the text is a rational way to introduce the addreviation.

the table puts all of them in one place, in an organised manner, so the reader can find the reference without thinking "where did i see that term explained in the text ?".  at a minimum you could expect the reader to refer to the table for the first instance as well.  you might want to consider having something to distinguish the same abbrev, eg FSR[1] = Field Service Rep, FSR[2] = Field Special Repair.

RE: Use of acronym table?

Is it so hard to just spell it all out every time?  Things are much more readable that way.

If you're too lazy to type it all as you write then use acronyms and do a search and replace at the end.

RE: Use of acronym table?

Well I might as well be the dissenting vote.  I hate, hate, hate reading reports where the author feels compelled to provide the written out version and the acronym or number in parentheses  right after, every-single-freaking-time.  I think it disturbs the flow sometimes to the point of unreadability.  And let's face it, most technical reports these days are not well written.  Why make things worse?

Given a choice, or the control, I have always opted to provide a standardized list of acronyms at the beginning of a report.  Sometime they end up as an attachment at the end.  As far as what standard to use, I have generally used Means Construction Dictionary as the base reference, with industry common or specialized acronyms added to an alphabetical list .  When the final report is proofed, the acronyms in the report should be checked against the standard, including acronyms not on the list, which should be added prior to publishing the report.

"Gorgeous hair is the best revenge."  Ivana Trump

RE: Use of acronym table?

Maybe I should have been clearer in what I was supporting.

Acronym Glossary + spell it out (and acronym in parenthesis) first time you use it.

Unnecessary acronyms should be avoided, but docs can get long winded if you don't make appropriate use of ones familiar to the likely reader.

As to my preferred source of Acronyms, why ASME Y14.38 of course.winky smile

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RE: Use of acronym table?

Mint, it depends on the report.  Some investigation reports that refer to a construction material or type would be much more difficult to read if you did not use the acronym.  The one that comes to mind for me is EIFS, or exterior insulation and finish system.  It is so common for architects and engineers in my field to refer to this material as 'EE-EYE-EFF-ESS' OR 'EE-FISS' that spelling it out would be much more confusing.

"Gorgeous hair is the best revenge."  Ivana Trump

RE: Use of acronym table?

I hate acronyms.  I would never use an acronym for a group of words which are not commonly capitalized.  If an acronym would not be understood immediately by the readers, the acronym should not be used.  

RE: Use of acronym table?

I taught a class earlier this year and thought that I wasn't using many acronyms.  Someone complained that I was using a term (which is actually a very common TLA in this field) that I hadn't defined.  I went back and built a table with over 200 entries.  I apparently used them a lot more than I thought I was.

My intention was to spell them out then put the TLA in parentheses the first time I used the term.  I failed miserably and didn't even know it the first 5 times I taught the class.  Spelling out something like psig as "pounds force per square inch gauge" is truly unreadable.  There was a German in my class that was so locked into kg(f)/cm^2 that he thought that was the only pressure unit on the planet--he had never even heard of kPa.

I think that anything you do will stike some people as good and some as bad.  You should do your best to make the stuff you're writing as readable as possible.  Beyond that you can find a style guide to support any position.


RE: Use of acronym table?

Acronyms are an anachronism.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

RE: Use of acronym table?


You do it even more than you think! What is a TLA?

Stephen Argles
Land & Marine

RE: Use of acronym table?

Did that one on purpose.  TLA=Three letter acronym.


RE: Use of acronym table?

I always have an acronym list at the beginning of the document and spell out the phrase the first time it's used with the acronym following it in parenthesis. But I also only use an acronym if the phrase appears more than three times in the document.

There are a couple of cases where I have spelled it out more than once in the document, such as when the acronym hasn't been used for a couple of sections or if a section is stand alone (ie I'll spell it out in the executive summary and then again in the main body of the report). Anything that will help make the document more readable.

The exception being if it's a really common acronym such as psig, it still goes into the acronym table but I won't spell it out in full in the document.

RE: Use of acronym table?

I feel a strange sense of de javu reading this. I'm sure we already discussed this at some length previously and with much the same response. Can't think when, though or if it was in this forum or another.



RE: Use of acronym table?

Just spell out the acronym in the table of acronyms (if you have one). That's my vote as it is what I do and what I have seen in some technical journal's.  


RE: Use of acronym table?


   I do not like the acronym "psig".  I prefer to spell out units -- lb/in^2(g).  I do not even like the metric practise of naming units after people.  A kPa is 1000N/m^2.  If you write the units out, you can do a unit balance.

   Quite a few years ago, a bunch of us were trying figure out what a Torr was.  This was prior to the internet, so it took quite a bit of time to figure out that it is one millimeter of mecury.  


RE: Use of acronym table?

So if you "spell it out" do you ever define an "lb"?  Is that "pounds force" or "pounds mass" or something else?  What does "raised to the power of 2(g)" mean?  I would take that as "inch to the power of 2*g=64.28".  Might be a really big number in the denominator.

"psig" takes less definition since it is in such wide usage.


RE: Use of acronym table?

As I see it, certain acronyms have become the word.  I'd rank PSIG, GPM, CFM, SCFM, ACFM among these.  Of course, these are based on English units.

I work for an "Acronyms-R-Us" company.  If we didn't have acronyms, I'd still be back about mid last year in my speech and typing on company matters.


RE: Use of acronym table?

If you have a glossary, why would you spell out the term within the body of the document.  It would be the same for standard acronyms and abbreviations.  As long as there is a common list that is easily accessible, I wouldn't both spelling it out.

Matt Lorono
Lorono's SolidWorks Resources & SolidWorks Legion


RE: Use of acronym table?

It seems to me that the need to define abbreviations or acronyms is dependent upon the audience that will be reading the document.  In a case where the document is written for those practicing within the subject industry, then there is no need to spell out each-and-every abbreviation.  They should already know.   Otherwise, when it is written for the general public, then spell it out for the poor slobs.  

RE: Use of acronym table?

I suppose it depends upon the intended target for your report, memorandum, or whatever this is.

Over use of acronyms can make extremely frustrating reading for someone less familiar with the topic.

It can seriously detract from the flow of thought if the reader has to constantly be flipping back and forth to follow the plot.

RE: Use of acronym table?

If you have an acronym table, there's no need to define it in the text.  Acronym tables get you away from the problem of figuring out exactly when the abbreviation first appeared in the text (and having it stay there during the editing and revision process), especially in long manuals where one doesn't start at the beginning but just flips to the relevant section.


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RE: Use of acronym table?

warpspeed, I was reading through the newly adopted CalGreen guidelines today getting very frustrated trying to figure out each of the adopting agency acronyms.  It took me forever using Google to find a cross reference for the acronyms they use for the various governmental agencies.  I ended up writing the full name at the head of each matrix.

"Gorgeous hair is the best revenge."  Ivana Trump

RE: Use of acronym table?


As I see it, certain acronyms have become the word.  I'd rank PSIG, GPM, CFM, SCFM, ACFM among these.  Of course, these are based on English units.
I think you mean IMPERIAL units.

RE: Use of acronym table?

I saw a presentation the other day where a guy used "gpm" and actually meant "gallons per thousand (M) cubic ft".  The magnitude looked squirlly and I called him on it.  He said that gpm is always gallons per thousand and I must be from Mars.  Most of the rest of his talk was nonsense as well.

What to call the units is an ongoing problem.  Do you call it SI when someone uses kg/m^2 as a pressure unit?  I don't think so.  One company I've recently worked with calls it FPS (feet, pounds, seconds) which I thought was pretty clear and unabmigious once I worked out the acronym.  

When I was in the UK last year I heard a lot of "feet", "mph", and "stone" so "English" seems to be a fair name for the units we use in the U.S. (especially since most of the terms originated there).  Imperial seems more PC this week, but what that really means is "the units of England during the Imperial period", so again calling them English units seems to work.  


RE: Use of acronym table?

Except that the British use Imperial units when not using SI units and us on the west side of the puddle use English units, which are not the same a Imperial units.  1 gallon Imperial being 1.20095 gallons English.  Etc.

RE: Use of acronym table?

I was just working in NIST's REFPROP.exe and wanted to change the units--the only fps option was "English".


RE: Use of acronym table?

A few years ago I was in Staples store buying some computer memory for my PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)and noticed a new magazine publication -- name of "PDA's Cutting Edge."  That was not the real name rather the intent and you will see in a moment why I don't care to remember the magazine name.

I bought the mag and "tried" to read it.  Not only was there no table for acronyms & abbreviations (A&M's) but there was not even one spelled out clue for the plethora of A&M's.  The editor had asked for feedback via internet and I gave him my opinion.  He did not appreciate that I referred to his authors as inane by not giving us any clues.  His defense was that the intended audience would be cutting edge enthusiasts who would know the terms.  This seems a very weak excuse given the fast pace of change particularly in the field of computers.

Give me a table or give me a first time spell-out but do not keep repeating the spell-out which is distracting.  If you really want to know the spelling and cannot remember at the next A or M, seaching for it will help stimulate your brain to better cement it in your PMB (Personal Memory Bank).  

RE: Use of acronym table?

Metman, I disagree with the editor also. There will always be someone that wants to know more on things. If the magazine is for only cutting edge enthusiasts, then what about others that want to go into the field?

RE: Use of acronym table?

I've always done it the other way round, the acronym first and then the name in parentheses, as in...

TLA (Three Letter Acronym)

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Design Solutions
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Use of acronym table?

anecdotal case in point:

I've got a handicapped daughter in a public school program called "Career and Transition".  The local newspaper did a story on her class and as expected, got the class name wrong as "Career in Transistion".

The full class name is used in paragraphs 2 and 6, each time by itself, and then in paragraph 7 the term C&T shows up twice.

We showed the article to 21 people (I counted) who have stopped by in the past month, and every single of them looked up when reading through it and said, "What's C&T?"

Every one of them then said something to the effect of, "why wasn't C&T in parentheses next to Career and Transition earlier in the article?  

The evidence shows, that the expectation.

I doubt whether it matters whether (C&T) is before or after, but every literate person I showed it to said the acronymn should be next to the full name term.

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