Almost exactly 10 years ago (“Terms Of Engagement” from July 2008), I used this space to ask you about engineering acronyms. Are they time- and space-savers or confounding and unnecessarily overdone? Results were mixed. We still like our terminology to reflect real-life usage, and more recently, I’ve been wrestling with another category of dilemma and I could use your input. The basic quiz category here is: One word or two?

What do I mean? Well, here are a few examples where, to quote fictional pseudo-psychic Shawn Spencer of the TV show Psych, “I’ve heard it both ways.”

Please take a quick short survey here Engineering Terms: One Word Or Two?

change order changeorder
work order workorder
shop drawing shopdrawing

There may be one or two more, but these have popped up more frequently lately. Of course, we have our style for the magazine, but I also like to stay open to adjusting that style based on usage out in the field. Which options above would you say is proper or more common? Is that your individual preference or does your firm have a standard for these sorts of terms? I would enjoy getting a better sense of how assorted firms handle vocabulary and acronyms, and whether there’s a general effort to be consistent about it.

Email me at, and look for a quiz along these lines on our homepage where you can help steer this decisionmaking process.

Perhaps our magazine’s most interesting case of changing our style happened to involve the industry’s biggest acronym of all. When I started here, ES referred to “hvac” — all lower-case letters. Even then, I couldn’t find any other usage like that, but we stuck with it for a good while. Eventually, I decided it was more prudent to reflect the overwhelmingly common usage.

For acronyms in general, if you’ve ever wondered if there’s any rhyme or reason to what gets capitalized and what doesn’t, there is (at least at our magazine). After considerable thought, we arrived at a rule of thumb that works well: We capitalize acronyms that involve equipment and generally not the rest.

Thus, you see VFD and BAS alongside references to cfm.

I know a lot of you have a preference about these terms if not an outright policy, so drop by and help me out with that quick quiz. Next month, we’ll have bigger issues to discuss.


ES Jukebox

Our managing editor, James Siegel, mentioned this disc in a newsletter recently. First Aid Kit is a Swedish sister duo, and their modern folk/rock sound will beckon to anyone with a penchant for harmonies. (Emmylou Harris fans: I’m talking to you.) Between Ruins and a new album from Brandi Carlile, it’s been a great 2018 already for women behind the mic.


Register for our free webinars at, where users can also view any webinar from the last year on demand in our archive.


May 16
Understanding The Effects Of Harmonics And VFDs In Electrical Systems
Sponsored and presented by Danfoss

Recently Archived
Power Management of Energy Storage Technologies
Presented by Julius Neudorfer
Sponsored by Kohler



May 9-10
2018 Healthcare Symposium
Cambridge, MA.

June 15-18
ASHE Annual Conference & Technical Expo
American Society for Healthcare Engineering

June 23-27
2018 ASHRAE Annual Conference

July 9-12
Purdue Compressor/Refrigeration and Air Conditioning & High-Performance
Buildings Conferences and Short Courses
West Lafayette, IN

July 22-27
Indoor Air 2018