Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Reviews of photography products that enhance the enjoyment of taking pictures. Published frequently but irregularly.

How to Spell 'Raw' Tweet This   Forward This

14 December 2012

Any publication, even one as unpretentious as this, has to settle a few usage issues to get on with the show. We call this house style as it develops into a collection of such things.

One of the most contentious usage issues in this business has been how to spell "Raw" as in Raw format and Raw converter. Which is only right, when you think about it, because Raw is not one format but a variety of formats. It would have been the name of the house wine at the Tower of Babel.

You can, of course, already see how we've resolved the issue for this publication because we've already had to use it several times. But what were we thinking? That's another question.

In resolving issues like this, the job is to consider various issues, weighing each of them according to their merit. Which sounds vague until you try it. Let's try it.

"RAW" was immediately popular and the most prevalent form for a long time. Why? Well, in those days everything was capitalized because the chisel didn't come with a lowercase alphabet, apparently. TIFF, EXIF, RAW. They were almost logos.

So what's wrong with that? Well, like Exif, Raw is not an acronym. Real Awkward Word, maybe, but not a Real Acronym, Wiseguy. And if we just pretend it is, we'll have to interminably answer, "What's RAW stand for?"

Convenient, yes, but misleading. So we eliminate RAW as an option.

Well, what about just the opposite. What about "raw" in lower case? It isn't misleading. It isn't wrong. Let's try it out.

So we throw it into a couple of phrases and see how it does. We consider "raw converter" or "raw format" and it looks OK if less significant than we might hope. But that's a clue. If we consider the normal meaning of the word, things get a little confused. We talk about "raw processing power" or "raw meat" or "raw deals" all the time.

This doesn't distinguish our technical "raw" from the ordinary meaning of the word. So it can be confusing.

You don't want to be misleading or confusing in this business.

Which is why we ultimately settled on "Raw," which distinguishes the meaning from the ordinary one and doesn't pretend to be an acronym. It's a proper name, that's all. And that's about right. It really is a proper name, a certain special thing.

The solution to this particular problem has always been DNG, of course. DNG is an acronym, standing for Digital Negative Format. And it can handle any Raw format, as well. But that's another story.


Wishing you good things with the breakaway.

About RAW.

I am keeping it because the all caps version keeps it in the camp with JPEG, TIFF, GIF, MOV, and all things like that.

Where Raw might be the Name Of Something, RAW is always understood to be the FORM of the thing. Of course, raw means uncooked, as in "straight from the camera without being touched."

-- Peter iNova

P.S. I'm getting close to the final steps for my eBook/iBook about the Nikon D800. It's full of things Nikon and many others never told you about.

"Raw" is such a raw subject! We never convinced anyone else but we wanted to explain the thinking behind our usage. -- Mike

BackBack to Photo Corners