Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2010 01:55:34 -0400
Reply-To: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
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From: Stephen Stepenuck <sstepenuck**At_Symbol_Here**NE.RR.COM>
Subject: Re: Abbreviations
In-Reply-To: <4ef535571003291330l341dbde5qf15067b90930cfa6**At_Symbol_Here**>
Perhaps particularly in our business, abbreviations—and especially a cronyms—are a way of life.
I share Alan’s concern, but I must agree with Jerry—I think  those of us in education are obliged to prepare students for the acronym overload they will encounter upon graduation [--and perhaps during job inter views before that.  Imagine a senior’s being asked if he’s had any experience with SARA, and saying “Sarah who?”].  
    The first question on all exams in my EH&S-rela ted courses was what I called “vocabulary,” and consisted of ten abbreviations or terms associated with the material recently covered.   ;Besides giving me a quick check re whether the person had been doing any ho mework or studying at all, it provided an expected and easy 10 or 20 points to help students calm down before getting to questions requiring more critic al thinking.   More importantly in some respects, that aspect of t he courses was introduced because from my off-campus professional and consul ting work, I knew that was how “pros” in the field actually comm unicated, and a student entering the work force without that vocabulary woul d be handicapped.   
    While some students complained about having been re quired to learn abbreviations in the field, more than one returned after gra duation to say, similarly to one such visitor as he was leaving:
“Hey Doc...”
“Keep up the acronyms.”

    It is equally important to discourage use of non-st andard or ambiguous abbreviations.  Every science student needs to be w arned early of the dangers of misinterpretation.  The apparently innoce nt use of “gr” for grams is an example that usually drives home the point quickly [7000gr/lb vs. 453.6 g/lb].  

Abbreviations are with us to stay, but agreed Mary Ellen, so long as there is clear and explicit agreement within the lab or other work environment wit h respect to which ones will be used, and exactly what they represent.

My two cents,

Stephen J. Stepenuck, Ph.D.
Professor of chemistry emeritus
Keene State College
Keene NH 03435-2001

You wrote:

< SPAN STYLE='font-size:12pt'>To Everyone,
What is your opinion of allowing laboratories to use abbreviations and shor t hand as long as a key to those abbreviations is kept in a co nspicuous location and is clearly identified?
Thoughts? and Thanks
Mary Ellen

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