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It is quite normal to abbreviate long terms usually more than 2 words to simplify the scientific text and reduce space in scientific manuscripts, i.e., conference papers and journal articles. For instance, Service Oriented Architecture is SOA or Mobile Cloud Computing is MCC.

However, my question is how to write them properly. I know that when we abbreviate, we should first put the full form followed by abbreviated form in parentheses. Every repetition of the term afterward must be in abbreviated form.

But, I have seen two different ways of writing them. The first one is (no capitalized initial):

service oriented architecture (SOA) mobile cloud computing (MCC)

the second is (capitalized initial):

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) Mobile Cloud Computing (MCC)

Which one is correct or more accurate?

  • Unless it is a recognized and well-established abbreviation/ acronym, do not use lowercase. Capital letters alert the reader to the abbreviation. soa is easily mistaken for a typo of so a, for instance. Look up a good resource for abbreviations in current use in the domain. – Kris Nov 16 '14 at 7:30
  • You misunderstood me. I did not mean soa, I meant, service oriented architecture. Capital initials I refer to. – Espanta Nov 16 '14 at 12:29
  • Which is exactly what I have said. Please re-read my comment. I understood your question correctly, there's no misunderstanding. – Kris Nov 16 '14 at 13:27
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I actually always capitalize as I think it helps distinguish the abbreviation.

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The format without a capitalized initial is typically used for generic descriptors, e.g. monosodium glutamate --> MSG.

The one where the initial is capitalized is conventionally used for proprietary or brand names, or for proper nouns (e.g. United States of America --> USA).

The cases you are asking about, namely service-oriented architecture (SOA) and mobile cloud computing (MCC), are generic descriptors, and therefore do not require initial capitalization. (However, when MCC is being used to stand for Middlesex Cricket Club, then the referent of the abbreviation is a proper noun, and consequently does require initial capitalization.)

Of course, not everyone understands or pays attention to all these distinctions, or applies them consistently. The most common deviation from what I have described seems to be a tendency to overuse capitalization simply in order to make the term in question stand out, regardless of whether it is a proper noun or a proprietary name.

  • Thanks Erik, I hope other peers also read this question and comment so we can do the best of the best. – Espanta Nov 16 '14 at 7:24
  • Where an authority specifies a standard, it will be that the "spelled" text preceding an initialism follows regular capitalization rules (not capitalized unless a proper noun, and, of course, capitalize a word that begins a sentence). Here's an example from Wikipedia: "A uniform resource locator (abbreviated URL; also known as a web address, particularly when used with HTTP) is a ...." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_resource_locator Those who wish to label the practice of capitalizing such text "incorrect", however, will find many, many, many opportunities to do so! – Jim Reynolds Nov 16 '14 at 10:50

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