Spelling: Why does the New York Times put dots in I.B.M and U.S.B.?

This has been bothering me for years.

The New York Times will refer to TV networks as “ABC”, “CBS”, “NBC” or “CNN”. But when talking about Big Blue, they write “I.B.M.” . (Example)

A device can have both a “HDMI” output and a “U.S.B.” connector (that last link also includes “M.B.A.” and “R.I.M.”).

I admit that 97% of what I read in the Times are the technology blogs and articles (David Pogue, etc.).

Is there a pattern to this? Or is it just the Style Guide that’s behind the, uh, times?

Papers tend to have a House Style which all articles are supposed to subbed to conform to. This one sounds a bit pedantic. Of course styles can change over time - looking at a piece reprinted from the 1940s I am struck by 'bus for omnibus and 'plane, for aeroplane, pieces of punctuation that scarcely seem comfortable now.

I wouldn’t call it behind the times. It’s been a while since I read the NYT style book but I think that TV networks are an exception to the general rule that three-letter abbreviations get periods. Note that the official corporate names are still International Business Machined and Research in Motion, so I.B.M. and R.I.M. are true abbreviations.

The NYT is sort of famous for having an idiosyncratic house style - check out their odd rules for using “Mr.”, for example.

Yeah. Of course the oddness of the rule is that they use Mr. at all!

The most idiosyncratic house style I can think of is The New Yorker’s use of diaeresis. That seem wilfully perverse.

Idiosyncratic, definitely. Perverse? I don’t like relentless standardization of style, so I like it.

Yeah, but it’s fun to see something snootily different every now and then. It does kind of drive me nuts the way they write out long numbers, though - it’s like reading a wedding invitation.

This answers your own question more than anything. Clearly newly developing technologies will have terminologies that have yet to settle into common style agreement–especially when so many abbreviations and acronyms are used. But I suspect also the NT Times sometimes has a perverse sense that because of its stature it must call attention to its style choice just to remind everyone who’s the “top dog.” Still, it is pretty strange for them to continue using “I.B.M” when the company itself has used “IBM” for quite some time.

HDMI and U.S.B. strikes me as most peculiar. What standard do they use to distinguish between these abbreviations? Is one term proprietary perhaps?

You think periods in abbreviations is bad? Until Feb. 21, 1967, the New York Times had period in the Nameplate (“Masthead” to most people) – the title of the newspaper. It read:


Interesting – almost 45 years ago to the day!

That is quite strange. How do they handle HDTV?

Surely you mean the N.Y.T.? :stuck_out_tongue:

They use the remote.

When I read this, I immediately thought, “is there a meaning of diaresis I don’t know?”

It turns out: nope, and I’m totally willing to agree that The New Yorker is gleefully perverse in said usage. I’m amazed I was unaware of that.

The style I’ve seen in British papers, where acronyms are made words and considered plural for the sake of grammar, is really disconcerting to this American - “Nasa are planning to …”, “Nato are going to …”, and so on

I see the downcasing in The Economist and I’ve grown to prefer it. I don’t see why we need to keep preserving so many all caps acronym – aids, Unesco, Pubpat – just like scuba, radar, and laser.

On the other hand, I still don’t like using plural verbs with singular nouns. I much prefer the American way for that.

Apparently there was an editor who was planning on ending the use of diaereses but then he died before the change could be put into effect. I would assume subsequent editors took note of this and have been afraid to attempt the change.

Hey, don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

The New York Times Style Guide:

This explains the I.B.M. case. Its formal name is still International Business Machines Corp.

And that explains U.S.B.

Aha! I was right about that one too.