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I am writing a technical document with a lot of acronyms. At the start of the document I have an acronym list the spells out in full all the acronyms used in the document. In this table I have capitalised the first letter of each word. This includes some acronyms where more than just the first letters of each word contribute to the acronym e.g. Emissions Control (EMCON) I have had some comments from a colleague that suggested in my list of acronyms I should capitalise all the letters in each word that contribute to the acronym as follows:

Acronym Description

EMCON EMissions CONtrol

This doesn’t seem right to me, can anyone help specifically pointing to any authoritative source on the matter (rather than "some bloke on tinternet said…")

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    Finally, you do have to ask some bloke on the internet as you are doing now. – tom Feb 12 '16 at 11:49
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    This is sometimes done when defining an acronym, in order to identify how it was derived. It's not a "rule" in the standard capitalization conventions. It's certainly not mandatory. – Hot Licks Feb 12 '16 at 13:41
  • If this is just a table at the start of your document and not part of the text, I don't think it falls under normal style guidelines. – Hugh Meyers Feb 12 '16 at 14:00
  • If you are writing a glossary-like thing, I'd (personally) suggest doing it as you have: capitalizing or otherwise indicating what the acronym is derived from. If you're writing in-text, I'd (professionally) suggest doing it as you did in your first paragraph, but reverse the parenthetical: EMCON (Emissions Control). – VampDuc Feb 12 '16 at 22:55
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Some people do it, but it's certainly not necessary.

For instance, check this PHP disambiguation page on Wikipedia. There's a mix.

In this similar page on COBOL, there's a bold highlight for the first o, but no capitalization change.

I personally find it distracting in a list, and harder to read.

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If I understand you correctly, you have no problem using the all-caps string EMCON as an abbreviation of "Emissions Control," but rendering the spelled-out form as "EMisions CONtrol" to indicate where the letters in the abbreviation come from "doesn’t seem right" to you.

Let's suppose that you have other entries in your list that are true initialisms, so that EMCON appears in a setting like this:

EMAP Emergency Management of Artillery Projectiles

EMB Extrasensory Manipulable Bodies

EMCON EMissions CONtrol

EMDID Essential Medical Descriptive Identity Detail

EME Effective Mechanistic Extrusion

In that case, it seems to me, your colleague has a valid point in arguing that, by capitalizing the EM in EMissions and the CON in CONtrol, you are maintaining a consistent approach to the list, by using capital letters to identify each letter included in each abbreviation. Since you haven't indicated to readers that some of the "acronyms" in your list are true initialisms and others are amalgams of the first syllables or first few letters of constituent words, capitalizing the letters in the constituent words makes clear at once to readers what is going on in a particular abbreviation like EMCON.

The alternative, of course, is to render the abbreviation as (for example) EmCon and then to run it in the list as follows:

EMAP Emergency Management of Artillery Projectiles

EMB Extrasensory Manipulable Bodies

EmCon Emissions Control

EMDID Essential Medical Descriptive Identity Detail

EME Effective Mechanistic Extrusion

This treatment is consistent in capitalizing only the letters that are capitalized in the abbreviations, and it also clearly distinguishes between entries that are first-letters-only initialisms and entries that are first-syllables or first-few-letters abbreviations.

Both forms of the list that I present as block quotes above are consistent and, therefore, eminently reasonable approaches.

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