6. Technical Abbreviations, Acronyms,
and Units of Measurement

Computer documentation requires extensive use of abbreviations, acronyms, and units of measurement, many of which have become generally accepted "words" in the industry language. As with any word in a sentence, it is important that you use abbreviations, acronyms, and units of measurement accurately and with consistent meaning in your documentation. To do this, rely on industry definitions for these terms; don't create your own abbreviations or acronyms. Reference books of this type include The New IEEE Standard Dictionary of Electrical and Electronics Terms, IBM Dictionary of Computing, and Microsoft Press Computer Dictionary.


The chapter concludes with a table listing abbreviations and acronyms for some commonly used words, phrases, and units of measurement.

Abbreviations and Acronyms in Text

An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase that is used in place of the entire word or phrase. "CPU" for central processing unit, "Btu" for British thermal unit, and "SGML" for Standard Generalized Markup Language are examples of abbreviations. An acronym is an easily pronounceable word formed from the initial letters or major parts of a compound term. "COBOL" for common business-oriented language, "pixel" for picture element, and "ROM" for
read-only memory are common acronyms.

When using abbreviations or acronyms, follow these guidelines:

    For example, a local-area network (LAN) comprises computer systems that can communicate with one another via connecting hardware and software. LANs are often used today.

    The acronym "SCSI," for example, is pronounced "scuzzy." A user who doesn't know that "SCSI" is pronounceable may expect to see "an SCSI port," not "a SCSI port." In such cases, provide a pronunciation key when you first use the acronym by itself, as in this example:

      A small computer system interface (SCSI - pronounced "scuzzy") cable connects the disk drive to the SCSI port.