by Michael Bedford
Published at 2017-04-20
Leafing through a copy of The Editorial Eye, Vol. 17, No. 9 from September 1994, I noticed a helpful article on abbreviations for technical terms. In it, Candee Wilson showcases suggestions from a number of Eye readers on how to appropriately abbreviate the terms kilobyte, kilobit, megabyte, and megabit.
To avoid confusion, some readers suggested using "kbyte" and "kbit." IBM's practice in 1994 was to use "Kbit" and "Kb" but to supplement the initial use of "Kb" with the spelled out word, i.e., "Kb (kilobytes)."
These are good suggestions for how to abbreviate these four terms, but what about the unending stream of new technical and Web jargon that writers and editors deal with on a daily basis? Things have changed a lot since 1994: for instance, neither Google's search engine nor wireless Internet existed then.
So, in the interest of innovation, here are some suggestions on how to abbreviate technical and Web jargon that came into common parlance after September 1994.
The lexical jury seems to be out on whether or not “Google” should be capitalized when used as a verb, i.e., “Did you Google it?” Grammar Girl herself notes that Merriam-Webster and the OED are at odds with each other and themselves, on this point. So, as Grammar Girl suggests, whatever choice you make, just keep your style consistent.
According to Wikipedia, the term “Wi-Fi” is the brainchild of Interbrand, a US-based brand consulting firm that was making a pun on “hi-fi.” Unlike Google, though, the Wi-Fi Alliance has said in no uncertain terms that the term is “Wi-Fi,” not “WiFi,” “Wifi,” or “wifi.”
One unique Web-based term that’s gained a lot of traction over the past 23 years is “blog.” Many are familiar with the roots of the word, a derivation of “weblog,” but what's interesting about the word “blog” is its broad definition.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, blogs were little more than personal diaries that people uploaded to the Internet. Turning the clock ahead to 2017, there are several different types of blog, some professional and others not. And, because blogging is a great way to stay relevant to search engines, many organizations—The Editing Company included—blog on a regular basis.
As an abbreviation, “blog” is pretty simple. Although some may feel inclined to put an apostrophe at the beginning of the word, this should be avoided. Much like the word “phone,” in common usage the word “blog” has eclipsed its unabbreviated form. And, because it's not a name, there's no need to capitalize it unless it begins a sentence.
In the realm of abbreviations that were in use before 1994, “Cc” and “Bcc” are a bit tricky. These abbreviations stand for “Carbon copy” and “Blind carbon copy” and are invoked in the effort to send copies of emails to multiple recipients. Setting aside the fact that many might not know what a carbon copy is, the usual capitalization scheme for these two abbreviations is odd. Although neither “carbon” nor “blind” are proper names, the first letter in each abbreviation is usually capitalized, i.e., “Bcc” and “Cc.”
But, to make things more confusing, although the “C” that stands for “carbon” in “Cc” is capitalized, the “C” that stands for “carbon” in “Bcc” is not. Instead, the first letter in each acronym is the only one capitalized, so at least that’s consistent.
After discussing relatively common technical abbreviations and acronyms, it's probably a good idea to review some of the less common ones. These terms won't be as familiar as “blog” or “Cc” ...
Thanks to techterms.com for providing an easy-to-use reference guide!
Finally, it is important to note the ongoing debate over capitalizing Web and Internet. You’ll notice that in this blog, we decided to capitalize both words. But in future blogs, we may decide not to. Susan Herring takes a deeper look at this conundrum in “Should You Be Capitalizing the Word ‘Internet’?”