I keep seeing new acronyms internet slang everyday on Stack Overflow.

Such as the following

Is it possible to make a stack rule guideline (or frequently asked questions entry) that, when you are answering a question, you spell out whatever acronym Internet slang you are using, because not all of us know what a lot of these mean?

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    is it deliberate irony that you used "ok", "stack", and "faq" - none spelled out -- in a post calling for spelling out? – Kate Gregory Jun 13 '11 at 19:23
  • @Kate. haha okAY i will fix that. I was going to use SO instead of Stack but i switched it when i realized i was talking about acronyms – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:24
  • At least you spelled out etcetera... – Colin Jun 13 '11 at 19:24
  • @Colin lol (laughing out loud) i was trying to spell out as much as i could – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:25
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    I think if you can solve the acronym problem, you'll win the Nobel Peace Prize. – Lance Roberts Jun 13 '11 at 19:26
  • Im not sure what all the downvoting is for. this is a legit question.... – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:38
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    @Neal, on Meta downvotes simply mean "I disagree" rather than "This is a Bad Question," but IANAMSU (I Am Not A Meta Superuser). – user7116 Jun 13 '11 at 19:41
  • @sixlettervotes, why is that? that actually makes no sense whatsoever. – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:41
  • and now im blocked from asking a question about that. i just got this message: Sorry, we are no longer accepting questions from this account. See http://goo.gl/C1Kwu to learn more. – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:43
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    Looks like the algo is detecting a case of short span hypocrisy meta.stackexchange.com/questions/89138/… – random Jun 13 '11 at 19:47
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    The reason people downvote on meta has been answered MANY MANY times. Try looking it up. There's a box on the upper right hand corner ... – jcolebrand Jun 13 '11 at 19:50
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    @Neal Using "rly bc" right now really isn't helping your case. I'm not doing it to be pedantic, but I really can't see how those are any more expected to be well-known compared to the acronyms you suggested in your opening. It may seem to you like they're common abbreviations, but they can be just as obscure to a portion of the community as IMO and AFAIK are to you. Understand? – Grace Note Jun 13 '11 at 19:51
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    @Neal You're missing my point if you're getting stuck on that. I did mention they were abbreviations. – Grace Note Jun 13 '11 at 19:53
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    @Neal: that's a big negative Ghostrider. We're giving up on 10-codes in Fire/EMS for a reason. – user7116 Jun 13 '11 at 19:56
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    @Neal: if I were to edit a question containing any combination of "really" besides the proper spelling (same for bc or anything else you could proffer), I would exchange it for its proper complement. – user7116 Jun 13 '11 at 20:00

IMHO, AFAIK "AFAIK" is not in the same class as DOS, LINQ, SQL, etc.

IMNSHO you should edit or suggest edits to posts containing non-technical acronyms which are merely noise (AFAIK, LOL, or OMGWTFBBQ to name a few). Especially in titles.

Sample acronyms which add value:

  • SQL
  • TCP/IP

Sample acronyms which decrease value:

  • LOL

Of course YMMV.

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  • That is what i was trying to say in my question.... – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:37
  • Well basically that is my question, just worded much better too – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:37
  • @Neal: added emphasis to my core point. – user7116 Jun 13 '11 at 19:38
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    I'm all for revising these things in the interest of readability, just like with any other changes made to make things more accessible. I just don't agree on making a FAQ entry out of it due to the fact it's not a simple task to enforce as "policy", it's pretty easy to break. Feels more like the kind of implicit thing to watch out for, like "Don't spell things wrong". – Grace Note Jun 13 '11 at 19:38
  • @Grace, it is nothing like dont spell things wrong because even if you spell something wrong, it is usually understood, whereas something like AFAIK is not... – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:39
  • @Grace: I'm with you, no sense in the FAQ becoming like the procedures I have to read at work (read: worthless miles of red tape). If you see it and it needs help, fix it. – user7116 Jun 13 '11 at 19:39
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    @Neal I have a lot harder time understanding people with egregious misspellings compared to acronyms. Entire chunks of words exchanged for the wrong thing does not make for satisfying comprehension. – Grace Note Jun 13 '11 at 19:40
  • @Grace. now do to the affect of everone downvoting this question for some reason, i was banned from asking more questions... which makes no sense whatsoever – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:46
  • @Neal I'm not really responsible for that, especially since I didn't downvote your question. – Grace Note Jun 13 '11 at 19:47
  • Was "AFIAK" being misspelt deliberate? – Andrew Grimm Oct 17 '11 at 7:13
  • @AndrewGrimm: AFAIK no. Good catch. – user7116 Oct 17 '11 at 12:26

How could this be enforced? Problem is, acronyms and abbreviations are prevalent. Some to the extent where the short form is far more well-known than the expansion.

Just on Stack Overflow alone, you've got entire tags like and that are acronyms themselves, and I imagine far more programmers are familiar with calling them SQL and LINQ than to say "Structural Query Language" and "Language Integrated Query" at every bend and turn.

Acronyms are problematic, but they're a part of language. It's definitely better to try and cater to the lowest common denominator, but that's not exactly the easiest thing to identify what people will or will not understand. And as mentioned, having to expand everything will have equal chance of confusing people.

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  • That is why i was confused about the acronym complaints on my question. I am not talking about general well know acronyms like FAQ, SQL etc, i am talking about completely ridiculous ones that you have to look up on google to find the definition for. – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:30
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    @Neal Who is anyone to say SQL is a "well-known acronym"? I had to look it up just now just to re-confirm to myself that it was an acronym! As I did when I first ran into the abbreviation in college. What's "obvious" to you is not always so clear to everyone else - it's the same with all the abbreviations you think are "completely ridiculous", may be plain as day to a vast majority of programmers in a particular area. – Grace Note Jun 13 '11 at 19:31
  • Yes, but for people who are on SO (yes SO, not stack overflow) should know what SQL is, doesnt matter that it is an acronym, they know what it is. Like HTML or PHP, im not going and spelling out what they mean because we all on SO have come to use them as sudo-words, but things like AFAIK are just very confusing – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:33
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    @Neal the point is that everyone typing "afaik" or "sql" or "faq" does so believing it's a general well known acronym. Even when we try to stop ourselves, we do it. They are words to us. So if you made a "no acronyms" rule, people would believe they were following it. As you did when you wrote the first draft of your post. – Kate Gregory Jun 13 '11 at 19:34
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    @Neal They're confusing for you. Which is my point. It's language. Abbreviations are no different than real words, it's just as easy to confuse people by saying new acronyms as it is to use words from a much more expansive vocabulary. – Grace Note Jun 13 '11 at 19:34
  • @Kate. nowhere in the 1st draft of my post did i say NO ACRONYMS, i just stated that there should be a thing in the FAQ (i am not spelling it out) that if you are using an acronym, the user should know that they might be misunderstood. – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:35
  • @Neal: the rule "no acronyms" was inferred from the language of your question. You even added emphasis to the clause that user's should spell out each acronym. – user7116 Jun 13 '11 at 19:52

While I'm a strong supported of the necessity for people to avoid the "SMS talk" (cmon,ppl! m prity sure u no wat I mean) in writing on a different media (in which you don't pay for each character you're using), I do believe though that acronyms are not to be despised like this.

Without going deeper into the analysys of languages and their tendence towards a progressively simplification, both in speaking and in writing, I think acronyms are still to be considered something that enriches the language; they allow for economy of understanding and expression, and condensation of meaning and semantics. Of course, you could write "As Far As I Know" but do you see how more powerful is AFAIK as an espression? it's short, direct to the point, and conveys the same meaning. Reading online on a PC or mobile screen doens't give you the luxury of using a lot of words, engaging in complex and long sentences, like those 19th century writers payed by the word. You need to be concise and fast, or you'll lose readers' attention (much like this post is doing), and acronyms (especially in a language like english that tends to contractions, think at "I'm", "won't", etc.) are just the right things for the job.

As long as you make yourself clear, by using standard and well-know (and recognized by the community) acronyms, I see nothing wrong in this. I'm not talking of course of the "techincal acronyms", but the one used in common language and in lieau of idiomatic expressions (sorry I don't know the right english term for this, something like "expression figée").

And, besides, you cannot compel someone to always write in its purest and formal language, for many of us have learnt enligsh as a second or third language, and with the internet and its ever-growing use of acronyms as a teacher.

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  • +1, with the addition that some of the best writing has a noticeable lack of filler (e.g. "as far as I know"). – user7116 Jun 13 '11 at 19:54

Colloquialisms and short-hands are an inevitability. The technology industry itself is burdened with ambiguous acronyms. The fact that they are used is something we must live with, however the context in which an acronym is used is what is most important.

For example, DOS - Disk Operating System or Denial of service?

While that FAQ could be update to suggest more considerate use of acronyms, their complete removal is unrealistic.

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  • never said removal, i said a FAQ entry. that is all – Naftali aka Neal Jun 13 '11 at 19:31
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    I believe those two are DOS and DoS. – user7116 Jun 13 '11 at 19:32
  • I know, that's why I left it lower case :P – Colin Jun 13 '11 at 19:40
  • I know, I just enjoy reading questions with acronyms that contain spurious comments explaining the acronyms. – user7116 Jun 13 '11 at 19:42

While it certainly improves a question or answer when difficult or obscure acronyms are spelled out, I think making it some kind of rule isn't going to scale well - what do you do when someone breaks the rule in an otherwise great answer? Delete the answer? Vote it down? Suspend the user? Those seem a little harsh, and a great way to lose/annoy great contributors.

And that's before we get into the subjective issue of what is or is not an acronym(after something is commonly used for long enough doesn't it become a defacto 'word' in its own right?) or how often it should be spelled out.

Or would you just edit the problematic posts? We can do that already.

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    -1, not enough acronyms. – user7116 Jun 13 '11 at 19:42