Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Unnecessary abbreviation

I mentioned earlier a review of Mark Chancey's recent book and it gives me the opportunity to make a minor gripe. The reviewer begins "Mark Chancey (hereafter C.) . . ." and then for the rest of the review it is "C. says" etc. Is it just me or do others find this unnecessary abbreviation, even of authors' names, rather annoying? Does it really take so much longer to write "Chancey" than to write "C."? If one is annoyed by having to write that each time, one could easily write a little macro, or do a find and replace or similar. It certainly doesn't take any longer to read "Chancey" than "C."; in fact to read the actual name is quicker because you don't keep stopping to think, "Now who is the author again?" I take this review just as an example of this bizarre bit of contemporary style; it's now pretty common. Much too common for my liking.

Update (Wednesday, 20.55): See several useful comments on this post and especially Brandon Wason's remark that it is apparently obligatory for the BMCR, which I had forgotten. All the more reason for one to complain about it, of course. To encapsulate what I think is problematic and surprising about this usage: it is note form creeping into published prose, remarkable in an electronic era where one does not even need physically to type out every common word. This kind of thing should be becoming less common now and not more.


Loren Rosson III said...

Yes, Mark, this is irritating. The increased use of abbreviations is as odious as the increased use of nouns as verbs (like "to dialogue").

EMC said...

Don't blame the author; some journals make this mandatory. For instance, CBQ used to, perhaps still does.

Michael F. Bird said...

I thought the same thing. Abbreviating book names, esp. NTPG is one thing, but I think abbreviating author names like "Chancey" is a bit needless. Of course, if you have a Greek author like Schiaviopompopolis the temptation could become very real.

steph said...

It reeks of conceit, lazy arrogance and downright disrespect. I also agree with Loren: "to dialogue" is a particularly good (bad) irritating example. As for CBQ ... might as well be carved boned and quartered. And then multi-syllabic Greek mouthfuls can be pasted. They're too delightful to truncate.

Brandon Wason said...

I think that abbreviating the author's name is mandatory for the BMCR. Though I agree, it causes more work on the reader to try to remember the person's name.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

It seems to be a holdover from the old printing on paper days. Late-nineteenth especially and early-twentieth century reviews to a lesser extent (but not articles) were often quite thrify in their smaller font size, an almost telegraphic verbal syntax, and many abbreviations. Browse through JSTOR sometime.

It's completely inane nowadays of course, as there's no need for such skimping.

WHS said...

BMCR? Black Methodists for Church Renewal? Balancing Machine Calibration and Repair? Berkeley Multimedia Research Center?

NTPG? National Truckers Purchasing Group? Natasa Trifan Performance Group? Network Technology Planning Guide?

Be doers of the word, please!

steph said...

DD: Drunk and Driving
DD: Doctor of Divinity

AA: Alcoholics Anonymous
AA: Automobile Association

Acronyms can be fun if they mean something: NUTS Nottingham University Triathlon Squad.

I like the omission in the list for NTPG.