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What's in an Acronym?

Undefined EAJs send journalist OTE.

By Rex Weyler 3 Jul 2009 | TheTyee.ca

Rex Weyler is The World's Hardest Working Unemployed Journalist (WHWUJ).

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You have to spell it out.

[Editor's note: We've had a few frustrated readers call us out on this lately. Consider our publishing this a sign we wish to make amends!]



General Grammatical Standards (GGS) demand that when authors use Esoteric Acronym Jargon (EAJ), they write out the meaning in full Upon First Usage (UFU). The GGS manual points out that readers not from the author's profession may come upon an undefined EAJ for the first time and not know What the Fuck it Means (WFM).



For example, a Non-Clique Reader (NCR) may come across the term, "Urban projects in an FSR range of 3 to 5," and because of lack of generalized education or simple ignorance, may not know WFM. 



The confused NCR may, for example be an accountant familiar with "FSR" as a Financial Systems Review, a Financial Strength Rating, a Financial Services Roundtable, a Financial Services Representative, or, in Australia, the now famous Financial Services Reform. Perhaps our accountant thinks FSR represents a Fixed Price Redetermination or a Forecast Stock Return. A US Air Force accountant might mistake the undefined EAJ as a Fund Summary Record.



Perhaps the NCR is a technician, for whom FSR indicates a Full Spectrum Recorder, Frequency Scan Radar, a Force-Sensitive Resistor, a Free Spectral Range, a Feedback Shift Register, a Frequency-Shifted Reference, a Fractional Synthetic Rate, or a type of Fluoro-silicone Rubber. Perhaps our NCR is a mathematician, for whom an FSR is a Fourier Series Representation.



A surgeon might think FSR refers to Fractionated Stereotactic Radiotherapy or Fractionated Stereotactic Radiosurgery. A pilot might conjure the Flight Safety Rules.



If the context is urban and rural planning, as indicated by the phrase "urban projects," perhaps an FSR is a Forest Service Road, a Feasibility Study Report, a Field Service Report, Flood Study Report, or Farming System Research. If the writer is an architect, perhaps he or she is referring to a Facilities Support Requirement, a Facility Safety Review, or a Floor Space Ratio.



Without having seen the proper contextual meaning spelled out, our poor NCR remains confused. A reader from Norway might think an FSR is a Fjernskriver Ratt. A Swedish reader might believe we are talking about their Foundation for Strategic Research. In Denver, Colorado they might assume we are referring to the Family Support Registry. Perhaps the reader is a geopolitical specialist who thinks we are discussing the Former Soviet Republic, a German housewife who listens to Frühstyxradio, or a simple Canadian looking for a Full Service Restaurant. God forbid, our confused NCR might be a rap music fan who can only imagine this means the Futuristic Sex Robotz.



In any case, the GGS remains clear on this standard: Always spell out the EAJ on first usage in any paper or essay, so that a reader from another discipline, or no discipline at all, knows WFM. These undefined EAJ can send even a seasoned reporter OTE (Over the Edge).

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