Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is DiReCt, which I understand is a relatively new service developed by the University of Southern Queensland, a kind of digital reserve or course readings service. Thank you to the Australian Library News for the reference. It is an acronymn for Digital Resource Collection using a mixture of capital letters and lower case letters, as many such acronyms do nowadays.

The word is provided here as an object lesson in the principle that, in spelling words, the big letters go at the front, and the little letters follow them. This is a pretty simple principle, one would think. It can be modified sometimes to use just big letters, especially in acronyms. Mingling upper and lower case letters to demonstrate the origin of an acronym - rathering than going for nice clean typography - is a practice which has proliferated in recent times. If it had existed in the past, then we would have had such things as MaRC and GeStaPo.

There is a nice article on acronyms and initialisms in Wikipedia. It has one defect - in the section on use of upper and lower case, there is no discussion of mixed case acronyms such as this word of the day. So here are four reasons not to use mixed case acronyms: (1) they look ugly, (2) they take slightly longer to type, (3) they look laboured and pretentious, and (4) case still often matters in searching.

Please feel free to send me your favourite examples of mixed case acronyms, and I will develop the argument further.
And please enjoy October. Its a very nice month, especially down here in Victoria.

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