Saturday, 31 October 2020


This is the second 'rant' post in a week. I shan't make a habit of it, I promise. This blog should be about figures, books, history, ideas, analysis and games in the Napoleonic era.

I beg your indulgence once more though.

How Not to Stand Out in Any Crowd, Steve Kayser

My topic relates, somewhat, to my tongue-in-cheek request last week asking people to post less frequently. As I said, I really enjoy following the blogs of others and derive great joy, knowledge and interest from the marvellous range of figures, games, projects, reviews, campaigns and so forth that are the subject of people's posts. Keep 'em coming.

There is one thing that detracts from this: TLI/TLAs.

Three-letter initialisms or acronyms, where the number three can also be two, sometimes four, occasionally more. I have even seen it done for one! Sheesh.

The Woodchips, by J Daniel

Sadly there is far too much of this in my field (agricultural science). It is not as bad as in medicine, for example, although there are still plenty of times when one reads stuff and thinks, “did that really need to be made into an abbreviation/initialism?” There is enough space. I particularly dislike it as notation for a treatment. I was most pleased to see this topic raised as a concern in a recent issue of Nature.

If it is bad in science, it is out of control in wargaming, particularly wargame rules. Every unit type, factor, test, many of the outcomes; right down to the near ubiquitous use of D6 (gosh, I am guilty of that one!). You find yourself having to flick back to find out what the BMV or UFF was.

It does not stop there. It is done for nearly every war—mind you, I have never see the Napoleonic Wars referred to as NW, thankfully. Just another way in which the period is a cut above the rest, haha?!

The one that really, really drives me bonkers is names of rules. It seems that no-one can resist. Have you tried BP? No, what about NB? Surely you have heard of DBN (which one?) or SII, GNBAS, FOG, B, ESR, BE, GdB, MdE, GdA, GdD, CDB, RtR, L, LB, MA, MN, M&M, NFD, SB, SN, VlE, V&B, GB?

Arrrrrgh! Just write it in full, so everyone knows what the hell you are talking about!

If you won't do that, then please, please take a moment to pause and ask yourself, "do I really need to abbreviate this or to create an initialism?". Is it really understood by all?

Here endeth the rant.


  1. WTF, LOL.

    Just kidding!, you have a good point. I got a bit fed up of all the acronyms during my recent Cold War adventure. I had to keep looking up MANPADS and CLGP and the like.

    1. Oh this just reminded of how much the real army loves acronyms and abbreviations - EVERYTHING has it - HQUKLF (Head Quarters, United Kingdom Land Forces) RTM (Ready to Move) CEFO and CEMO (Combat Equipment Fighting Order/Marching Order - or was it actually Central European that CE stood for - never really got to the bottom of that!)

  2. I start to read a post in a blog. Third abbreviation in, I stop, if I need to spend more time deciphering than the author typed, I move on.

    Another gripe... battle reports that do not mention what rules were used, especially if use of mechanics are used. Must be getting old and cranky.

  3. Aw, c'mon James. :-)
    Surely Acronyms are over used, and it is reasonable to spell it out at least the first time it is mentioned in a post. I had little trouble deciphering the rules acronyms, though. The ones Paul cited, I haven;'t the vaguest clue about, though!
    Medicine is a bad example of overuse, I agree. It seems major studies have to contort their language to come up with titles that make catchy acronyms, and yet the actual words obscure what the study is really about! :-)

  4. Thank you Paul, Joe, Peter and Jonathan for your comments, indulgence and particularly your humour!

  5. Totally agree with you - many bloggers assume knowledge I don't have EG someone I read recently - if you are reading this I apologise if you are offended - mentioned a ruleset called BKIV (I think) and I have no idea what that is! It doesn't help I guess that my group rarely use commercially available rules, so I don't recognise the rules, even when spelled out in full, never mind when abbreviated!

  6. James, right point. From now on in my blog I will follow the acronyms. I will try to exclude abbreviations from the text.

  7. To the strongest! War of the Roses, The English Civil war, the thirty years war, they're all too long to write out all the time, I tend to do a full length one at the start of a post and then abbreviate after that,still always good to get a nice rant off your chest!
    Best Iain

    1. Dear Iain,
      For what it is worth, I disagree that they are too long to write out all the time. The reader in his/her head is needing to 'translate' it on the fly. At the very least what you mention should be done. It is the standard for good writing and effective written communication. That way I know that TTS is to stand for To The Strongest and not Total Tactics and Strategy (which is what it may mean to me)!
      Trouble is, is ain't done routinely. Have a look at how often it is not done in blogs, rules and even published books. As an example, I have seen WSS, SWS, SSW all used, without clarification to refer to the same conflict. I leave it to you and readers to deduce, as was the case in the original writing. It is maddening (to me). Hence the (never to be repeated, you'll be glad to read!) rant/post :).
      Kind regards, James.

  8. Oh hell. I use HoW all the time. It's like a reflex. And I've made a solid start on SotE (Shadow of the Eagles). Dave Ryan calls them SHADOW which I liked straight away.
    More generally, I guess these abbreviations are a way of showing you're in the know, one of the guys. It's just human. But I do take your point.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read my rant *and* to comment Keith. I realise that it is *my* problem, but it annoys the hell out of me!
      Keep those wonderful posts coming on your blog. Always a joy to read and to look at.
      Regards, James