I was reading this Question, and notice there are ton of acronyms in it. As someone not super familiar with every released book for 5E, it made the question hard to read and I had to google a few of them to figure out what they all mean.

I was gonna edit in the full titles of the books, but I checked the question's revision history and noticed it was originally that way, but someone edited it to acronyms.

I can understand abbreviations/acronyms being the default for the super common things like the PHB, DMG, and MM, but should abbreviations/acronyms be the go to for less common books like the one listed in the question?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Interestingly, it was the OP that wrote out all the book names to begin with and then abbreviated them instead in a subsequent edit. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mod Mar 3 '20 at 17:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Mandatory grammar police note: shortening, for instance, Xanathar's Guide to Everything to XGtE is an initialism but not an acronym; an acronym is an initialism which forms a pronounceable word. For instance, NASA is an acronym, but FBI is an initialism. Both are kinds of abbreviation, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Mar 3 '20 at 17:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer You're telling me XGtE is not clearly pronounced zygote? \s \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Mar 3 '20 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to see someone try to pronounce "E:RftLW" as an acronym :P \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mod Mar 3 '20 at 19:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast erft-low is how I pronounce it. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Mar 3 '20 at 20:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I think “erft-lew” is clearly superior, and obviously intended by the authors. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 3 '20 at 21:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kryan heretic!!! (But at least we both pronounce the ':' right.) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Mar 3 '20 at 22:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related to the topic of ambiguous acronyms: Please avoid using the RAI acronym, or use it carefully & be clear in context \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mod Mar 5 '20 at 0:55

Approachability is preferred. Posts should not be unnecessarily difficult to read.

That means super common abbreviations like “PHB” are fine and nobody has to spell them out. More obscure acronyms can make the post harder to read and understand though—we should spell those out or define them the first time we use them. This isn't site-specific policy so much as just good, effective written communication.

Our site is for beginners, enthusiasts, and experts. We want our advice to be legible and approachable to folks at various levels.

I'll point out that the editor of that revision you saw was the original author of the post, so it's not like someone else came along to enforce acronyms! I've put back the spelled-out version of several of those book titles.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It strikes me that the happy middle ground is most likely to use the full name of the resource when it is first referred to so that it's clear, but thereafter it should be acceptable to use the initialism of the resource. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Mar 3 '20 at 17:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer Yeah, that's usually the best way to handle acronyms: use them so you don't have to keep writing out the long form, but define them the first time the term appears so the user will understand what it means. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 3 '20 at 17:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer Yeah, that's pretty standard practice across a lot of writing disciplines. I'm not sure if it's a pro or a con, but standardizing (even informally) on that will make it possible to retro-edit a lot of old posts into compliance. \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Mar 4 '20 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could we create a FAQ section, or stack question, which lists abbreviations which are "official" for stack discussions? \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Mar 5 '20 at 17:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case I don't think it's something we could reasonably codify because it's situational. For example, are you answering a question for a total newbie? Probably don't use “PHB” without defining it. Are you answering a question which is exclusively asking about Xanathar's Guide to Everything? Probably safe to use “XGtE” without defining it explicitly because people will figure it out. This is also something that changes and evolves, and we support hundreds of games. Rather than officially codify “these abbreviations are in, these are out”, the community can use case-by-case judgement. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 5 '20 at 17:34

I feel strongly enough about this, that I think Carcer's comment above should be its own answer: The preferred method for all but the very most common of acronyms and initials should be to spell out the first usage, parenthesize immediately after, then use the short form afterward.

That way, you only need to spell out Self Contained Under Water Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) once, and ever after you can just say "SCUBA." It's also just basic standard practice in many disciplines.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed, this is good general practice. Obviously what will be considered "the very most common of acronyms and initials" is subjective, but I think as long as people take this general approach, we can simply leave it to commenters to ask the author to clarify if there's an ambiguous/unclear abbreviation or acronym/initialism. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mod Mar 5 '20 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ My gut feel is that little if anything outside of D&D materials will be so common as to be instantly recognizable. Do we even have a list of standard acronyms and initials? \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Mar 5 '20 at 21:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak We don't and that would be an enormous project. Some familiarity would be presumed: if we're in a World of Darkness question and a World of Darkness player generally understands "oWoD" or "V:tM" without them being defined, it doesn't matter if the non-WoD crowd wouldn't understand them. If you're not familiar with the subject matter there's going to be all kinds of content about it you won't understand and that would just be the beginning. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 6 '20 at 2:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree with this, the example actually used is one I'd potentially make an exception for; it is so widely used, that although I know what scuba is, I would actually be confused by it not being an acronym; i.e. in this particular case the acronym is in such frequent use that it has become the word. \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Mar 6 '20 at 9:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I meant to respond to this sooner, but life intervened. Is this a rare case where a Community Wiki would appropriate? Because I agree, it would be an insane undertaking for one individual. \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Mar 7 '20 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Novak We had a glossary project at one point and locked it. I would not encouarage a new glossary project for acronyms either—it's not in Q&A scope. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 8 '20 at 16:10

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