Avoid expanding acronyms

For better or for worse, the use of Internet and computers today involves the use of many acronyms, such as Tag Image File Format (TIFF), Portable Network Graphics (PNG), Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Rich Text Format (RTF), and Plain Old Documentation (POD). Naturally, applications also have to deal with these in their interface messages.

These things are often widely known by their acronym, and much less so by their fully expanded names. Thus, avoid using the fully expanded names in your application's messages. Use the well-known acronym instead. As an example, if your application saves images in the PNG format, then say so, instead of saying that it saves images in Portable Network Graphics format.

This problem becomes even more prominent when dealing with translations. The acronyms are used across language barriers. A "PNG" image in English or Spanish is still referred to as a "PNG" image in Hindi or Japanese. A Japanese user will know the file format by its well-known original "PNG" acronym.

But what happens when the full, expanded names are used instead? In many cases, you get what you ask for, which is literal translations. If you ask for "Plain Old Documentation" to be translated, you get it literally translated to what this description means in other languages. Which is of course not helpful at all if you're referring to the particular format, and the users know the format by its "POD" acronym instead of what the translated equivalent of the original full English name of the format would happen to be.

But wouldn't the translators know that this shouldn't be literally translated? Sometimes yes, but then the question remains what they are then supposed to translate this with. "Plain Old Documentation" will not be helpful at all to a user not fluent in English, as well as not being very attractive in an otherwise translated environment, so leaving it untranslated is usually not an appealing option. Translating it to "POD" assumes the translator both knows you're referring to this particular format in the first place, and that he or she knows what its well-known acronym is, which is not necessarily the case. And so, more often than not you will end up getting in these cases not very helpful literal translations, since that is what the translator is usually supposed to produce.

To summarize, always use a wellknown acronym, if there is one, instead of an expanded full name in a translatable message. As an example, if your application can save PNG images, use:

g_printf (_("Save As PNG Image"));

instead of:

g_printf (_("Save As Portable Network Graphics Image"));

TranslationProject/DevGuidelines/Avoid expanding acronyms (last edited 2008-02-03 14:47:07 by localhost)