Abbreviations in conversations !

Rodger Whitlock
Mon, 30 Jan 2012 23:22:49 PST
On 30 Jan 2012, at 20:37, steven hart wrote:

> Abbreviations can cause miscommunications !
> This is why, my understanding is, we are all asked not to abbreviate when
> sending messages on the PBS email org....
> Imagine how hard it must be for international viewers who don't have
> English as a first language, to follow some stories... Thay are
> sometimes left with substantial gaps in a conversation !
> I grew up speaking english & sometimes i have no idea what some of you are
> talking about, I am sure this is more common than people realise.... With
> some people something as simple as  ( I'm or don't ) is even difficult at
> first, rather than ( I am or do not )...

There is a small group of long established phrase abbreviations for email use:

afaik - as far as I know
afaict - as far as I can tell
iirc - if I recall correctly (weasel phrase)
imo - in my opinion
imho - in my humble opinion (usually means their opinion is anything but 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using these very old abbreivations. 
Anybody whining that they don't understand is just being lazy!

NIAT (Now I admit that) not all such abbreviations are acceptable, esp. nonce 
abbreviations coined afresh, such as NIAT. There are lots more to be found via 
Google, but beyond those I've listed and *maybe* a very few others, don't use 
them. The others are not that common and won't be readily understood.

In other forums, you will find other common phrase abbreviations such as RTFM, 
NSFW, STFU, and IANAL, but I don't think those are useful (or acceptable) on a 
mailing list like this.

What I detest: using airport codes instead of spelling out city names, likewise 
local abbreviations or nicknames for city names. Only in Iowa does DSM mean Des 
Moines. Nobody but us in BC know that YVR is Vancouver and YYJ is Victoria. 
Even PDX for Portland, Oregon, and SEA for Seattle are less than obvious.

Colloquial and slang names like "Tri-cities" are also no help. Cute 
abbreviations or misspellings such as Grass Pants for Grants Pass, in Oregon, 
are also to be avoided.  

As it happens, the two-letter abbreviations for American states and Canadian 
provinces are also best avoided, as they can be confused with the two letter 
country codes used as top level domains on the internet. Does CA mean 
California or Canada?

If you are going to use email, learn to use it right. That includes details 
like having a signature block preceded by a line with two hyphens and a space 
following them (recognized by the better email software so .sigs can be auto-
deleted when quoting). Make sure your .sig block says where you are, both city 
(spelled out!), state or province, (spelled out!), and country (spelled out!)

On a gardening list like this, it's appropriate to add a little climatic data 
to your .sig block if you prefer. I've done that to mine for this message.

PS: Re: is important as good email software recognizes it as marking a quoted 
line. Microsoft didn't know this and one release of their email program used 
localized abbreivations such as SV: in (iirc) Sweden. Chaos ensued. And to not 
abbreviate the names of certain notable, internationally known gardening 
organizagtons would be folly:

RHS = Royal Horticultural Society
AGS = Alpine Garden Society
SRGC = Scottish Rock Gardening Society
NARGS = North American Rock Garden Society

But I would discourage abbreviating names of local, small, and lesser-known 
groups, inter alia:

AGCBC = Alpine Garden Club
NZAGS = New Zealand Alpine Garden Society
VIRAGS = Vancouver Island Rock and Alpine Garden Society

If in doubt, spell it out!

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Z. 7-8, cool Mediterranean climate

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