Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Acronyms in UI

Burning issue: Using acronyms in UI text

Some folks use acronyms whenever the mood strikes. One problem when writing for a wide audience is that many (most?) acronyms are pretty arcane. If using an acronym is unavoidable, you should ensure that the user understands it -- if it's not a common one (such as DVD), is it spelled out on first use on the screen?

Also if your content is translated into other languages, you should ensure that this won't raise localization issues pertaining to the acronym.

Check your in-house style manual, or guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style, for additional guidelines about using acronyms in headings and titles. The Internet can be a good usage resource too, although not wholly consistent. At any rate, you should ensure that the acronym is spelled and capitalized correctly in your UI, and used consistently.

You also should check with your legal department, if you have one, to ensure that there isn't a trademark issue.

Only pluralize an acronym when it's appropriate to the context, unless the spelled-out version is itself plural. For example, adding an s to FAQ isn't necessary because the Q already stands for questions.

It might be advisable to avoid acronyms unless necessary -- for example, if you have space constraints.

1 comment:

Editrix said...

Yes! Acronyms make the user feel part of a special group--they're like a secret vocabulary. Users love to think that they know something special. IMHO