Redundant Acronym Phrases (RAP) Project

2011-4 parrot in Strasbourg
Black-Hooded Parakeet (Nanday conure) by J. Patrick Fischer (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes you can find useful technical communication information in the most unlikely places. The RAP Project is hidden in The Nandy Conure Page website. Birders will know that a Nanday conure is a beautiful medium-small mostly green neotropical parrot (also known as the black-hooded parakeet). This website has a gallery of fan pages devoted to individual birds in addition to FAQ and a forum for Nandy conure lovers.

The Nandy conure website also provides links to other items of interest to Nandy conure lovers.

Head shot of a black-hooded parakeet.
Black-Headed Parakeet

Update: 4 January 2020

The Nandy Conure Page was last maintained in 2010. Many of the interesting resources it once offered are no longer available such as a tool to balance chemical equations and a vegetarian cookbook. The page also provided some resources for technical writers and editors. One in particular highlighted the Redundant Acronym Phrase (RAP) syndrome.

Redundant Acronym Phrases

A Redundant Acronym Phrase (RAP) is a phrase containing an acronym plus a descriptive word that, when the acronym is expanded, the phrase contains a redundancy. For example; ATM machine. ATM is an acronym for automated teller machine. When the phrase is expanded, ATM machine becomes "automated teller machine machine". Similarly, RAP phrase becomes "Redundant Acronym Phrase phrase".

The term RAP phrase was coined in 1985 and first appeared on the Internet in 1995 as a category in the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) game Chaos. This phenomenon was later described using other terms such as RAS syndrome (Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome), coined in 2001. A PNS syndrome (PIN Number Syndrome syndrome) becomes a "personal identification number number syndrome syndrome".

Clearing redundant acronym phrases from your writing will help with translations of your writing and will improve accessibility when screen readers read the full spelled out meaning of an acronym for visually disabled users who would be puzzled hearing "machine machine".

The following is a list of Redundant Acronym Phrases often used in technical communication.

Redundant Acronym Phrases

RAP phrases

The first column lists a RAP phrase (an acronym plus a descriptive word); the second column shows how the expanded acronym phrase is read by a screen reader.

RAP phrase Expanded phrase
RAP phrase Redundant Acronym Phrase phrase
RAS syndrome Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome
AC current Alternating Current current
ADD disorder Attention Deficit Disorder disorder
AFC conference American Football Conference conference
AIDS syndrome Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome syndrome
AM modulation Amplitude Modulation modulation
ARM mortgage Adjustable Rate Mortgage mortgage
ATC control Air Traffic Control control
ATM machine Automated Teller Machine machine
BBS system Bulletin Board System system
CD disc Compact Disc disc
CGA adapter Color Graphics Adapter adapter
COBOL language Common Business-Oriented Language language
CPI index Consumer Price Index index
CPU unit Central Processing Unit unit
CS/DS/ES/SS segment Code/Data/Extra/Stack Segment segment
DAT tape Digital Audio Tape tape
DC Comics Detective Comics Comics
DC current Direct Current current
DOS system Disk Operating System system
EBCDIC code Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code code
EGA adapter Enhanced Graphics Adapter adapter
FM modulation Frequency Modulation modulation
GIF format Graphic Interchange Format format
GOB Bluth George Oscar Bluth Bluth (a character from the TV show Arrested Development)
HIV virus Human Immunodeficiency Virus virus
HTML language Hyper Text Markup Language language
IBM machines International Business Machines machines
IP pointer Instruction Pointer pointer
IP protocol Internet Protocol protocol
IRA account Individual Retirement Account account
IRC chat Internet Relay Chat chat
ISBN number International Standard Book Number number
KFC chicken Kentucky Fried Chicken chicken
LAN network Local Area Network network
LCD display Liquid Crystal Display display
LEM module Lunar Excursion Module module
LPG gas Liquid Propane Gas gas
MASH hospital Mobile Army Surgical Hospital hospital
MIDI interface Musical Instrument Digital Interface interface
NFC conference National Football Conference conference
NPR radio National Public Radio radio
OPEC countries Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries countries
PC circuit Printed Circuit circuit
PDF format Portable Document Format format
PERL language Practical Extraction and Reporting Language language
PIF file Program Information File file
PIN number Personal Identification Number number
PNS syndrome PIN Number Syndrome syndrome (Personal Identification Number Number Syndrome syndrome)
POST test Power On Self Test test
RAM memory Random Access Memory memory
RF frequency Radio Frequency frequency
RISC computer Reduced Instruction Set Computer computer
ROM memory Read Only Memory memory
RPN notation Reverse Polish Notation notation
SALT talks Strategic Arms Limitation Talks talks
SAM missile Surface-to-Air Missile missile
SAT test Scholastic Assessment (Aptitude) Test test
START talks Strategic Arms Reduction Talks talks
START treaty Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty treaty
TWA airline Trans World Airline airline
UHF frequency Ultra-High Frequency frequency
UL laboratories Underwriters Laboratories laboratories
UN nations United Nations nations
UNIVAC computer Universal Automatic Computer computer
UPC code Universal Product Code code
UPI international United Press International international
USGS survey United States Geological Survey survey
VAT tax Value Added Tax tax
VGA adapter Variable Graphics Adapter adapter
VHF frequency Very High Frequency frequency
VIN number Vehicle Identification Number number

Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words

Photo of a page in an IKEA instruction manual that uses no words--only drawings--for how to assemble a bookshelf.
IKEA picture instructions.

I love IKEA.  Do you know one of the things I love most about IKEA? Their instructions. They are universal and easy to understand. This $10 billion dollar company has nailed one of the factors that I think contributes to their success: Simplicity. This Scandinavian company located in 38 countries primarily uses pictures in their instructions, and these pictures rival the artwork of most ten-year-olds. The instructions are surprisingly straightforward and universal, so everyone from the astrophysicist to the 18-year-old college freshman can follow them with little-to-no trouble.

How important is simplicity in communication? Very. Taking a page out of IKEA’s book, the short and direct approach, which in their case includes pictures, is key.  (On a side note, I find this approach key when it comes to explaining to my husband how to properly separate clothes before he washes them, but I digress.)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, learn from IKEA and make sure you can communicate a comprehensible message to the widest-possible audience.

Talk Like Shakespeare Day—23 April

Bring out your inner Bard.

In recognition of Shakespeare’s 445th Birthday, this Thursday, April 23, 2009, will be Talk Like Shakespeare Day. Shakespeare is a part of our everyday lives. He coined more than 1,700 words still in use in modern English and his plays influence the way we think about the world we live in. Get in on the act! We hope you will send us your own "Shakespeariences" and visit TalkLikeShakespeare.org often for new content!!

Twitter like Shakespeare

A live feed straight from the Bard! Message any modern phrase to “ShakespeareSays” on Twitter, and he’ll post it on https://twitter.com/shakespearesays what it would have sounded like four hundred years ago.