Dealing with Acronyms and Abbreviations

My books are packed with acronyms and abbreviations, and readers complain about them all the time. An acronym is a series of letters that shorten a term and you can say. For example, Language INtegrated Query (LINQ) is pronounced “link” so it counts as an acronym. An abbreviation is a shortened version of a term or phrase. For example, MicroSoft Developer Network (MSDN) is an abbreviation because you can’t say the term and must instead say each letter individually. Whether the term is an acronym or an abbreviation, I usually try to define it once every chapter. However, some truly common terms are only defined once in a book and if a term is considered universally known outside computer circles, such as CPU (for Central Processing Unit), I don’t define it at all.

Unfortunately, making an assumption can be a dangerous thing. I try to err on the side of defining terms too often so that readers can gain maximum benefit from my books with the least amount of effort. However, even making my best efforts, there are times when you might find an acronym or abbreviation that you simply don’t understand in one of my books. When this happens, you can always contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com and I’ll be happy to define it for you. My goal is to ensure you have a great reading experience and that you discover everything possible about the topic at hand.

Some people prefer to do things for themselves. Hands on learning produces the best results for them and I do understand the need to address the learning methods each person uses with greatest ease. In this case, you have other options for finding the term you need defined. These sites will provide you with common terms used in my books (depending on the book, you may need to use more than one site):

Of course, there are many other fine online references, but these references should provide what you need in most cases. The worst case scenario would be to use the acronym or abbreviation without really knowing what it means. I encounter this problem all too often. Readers will contact me with a question that I truly can’t understand because of a misused term. Knowing what terms mean is an essential part of clear communication. Given that most of my communication is through e-mail, clear communication saves time and effort for everyone involved.

The question I get asked relatively often about acronyms and abbreviations is why the computer community uses them at all. After all, they’re confusing. Typing the full term every time you wanted to use it would be cumbersome at the least and error prone as well. Using a shorter term means concise communication. Using the terms correctly means precise communication. Every trade has its jargon and those jargon terms were created in order to ensure that two people communicating about a topic could do so in the most precise manner possible. I’ve discussed the need for jargon in the past in posts such as Power Words.