Abbrev.

I got a question from the Peanut Gallery today. Sameer from Qatar asks:
“What is the correct use of abbreviations like viz, i.e., e.g., sic, RSVP, DIY? Do they find a place in technical reports?”

Unless the abbreviation is used almost every day in every industry, I suggest spelling out abbreviations the first time used in a document or placing the definition in a glossary, either at the beginning or at the end of the document. And the reason I suggest this is because the same abbreviation can mean different things to different people.

Example:
W/O = without
W/O = workover

Here is how to do it in a sentence if your document has no glossary:
The rate of penetration (ROP) increased rapidly. The ROP then decreased to normal levels.

Now, to address the specific examples Sameer asked about, it is rare that a technical document will contain RSVP (respondez s’il vous plait, which is French for “please respond”) or DIY (do it yourself). Both are fairly common in most industries, so you can probably use these without spelling them out the first time. Just remember not to say “please RSVP,” as that would be repetitively redundant.

I did a tip on i.e. and e.g. last year, which I’ll repeat for the newbies. And I’ll cover viz and sic tomorrow.

i.e. and e.g.

The abbreviation i.e. stands for the Latin id est, which means “that is.” You can use it to restate something in different words, explain the meaning of a term or phrase, or give a complete list. Just remember that the I in i.e. is for “in other words.”

Example:
The Joint Operating Committee, i.e., the operator, the interest partners, and the oil ministry representative, attended a budget workshop on Monday.

The abbreviation e.g. stands for the Latin exempli gratia, which means “for example” or “such as.” You can use it to give an example or an incomplete list of examples. Just remember that the E in e.g. is for “example.” Do not use “etc.” at the end of a phrase that begins with e.g.

Example:
Engineering disciplines (e.g., chemical, mechanical, petroleum, electrical) require strong math and science abilities as well as
problem solving skills.

Both i.e. and e.g. should be followed by a comma, and neither should be italicized as the foreign words above are (i.e., those that are spelled out). Each letter should have a period after it, but no space between the two letters, e.g., between the E and the G.

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Profound Thought of the Day:
“There are many true statements about complex topics that are too long to fit on a PowerPoint slide. What gets left out is the narrative between the bullets, which would tell us who’s going to do what and how we’re going to achieve the generic goals on the list. What this means is that we shouldn’t abbreviate the truth, but rather get a new method of presentation.”
– Edward Tufte, American Educator and Yale Professor, b. 1942
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