There are many instances where names and acronyms are not spelled right, or where dashes are missing or even introduced. Should we correct them?


  • Different spellings of ElGamal
  • Spelling of Vigenère with 'e' instead of 'é';
  • Aes-128 where the acronym is not in caps;
  • AES128 or SHA256 where the dash is missing;
  • ... (feel free to add more examples) ...

Should we correct these kind of errors or are they too small to address?


Yes, we should make sure that names, function names and acronyms are correctly spelled and applied.

We are used as a reference by students of cryptography. Not all students will be aware of how the terms should be written, and will likely copy the spelling as (mis-)applied on the site. Therefore making sure that the spelling is correct is an important job and warrants an edit. This is doubly true if the misspelling is in the title of the question.

Besides that, correct spelling of these kind of terms are vitally important for having our site look as professional as possible. Professional looking questions and answers are more likely to be taken seriously.

So please make sure that ElGamal, Vigenère, AES-128, SHA-256 and SHA3-256 are used correctly.

If there are any doubts on how to spell these names then please lookup the standard in which they are found. When it comes to names, please use the way how an author spells their name themselves in English-oriented material. Otherwise please use the most accepted spelling. A correct spelling can often be quickly found on Wikipedia, we can always adjust when the Wikipedia spelling is clearly incorrect.

Some leniency can be applied if the incorrect term is in common use and doesn't cause any confusion. E.g. 3DES, Triple DES are probably better terms than (T)DEA, the official name for the Data Encryption Algorithm that nobody seems to use anymore.

However, edits that add a single dash on a single misuse - when the term is used multiple times - will still be considered a minor change and may be rejected for that reason. If you're adamant that it is still required, then you'll have to include a good reason in the comments for the system to let such a change through.

  • $\begingroup$ And as always, please please please consider the title of utmost importance when editing questions or when even contemplating editing a question!!! $\endgroup$ – Maarten Bodewes Oct 22 '19 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ Can we use the Community user for some of these changes? Vigenere has 344 results Vigénere has 279. That requires a lot of changes. $\endgroup$ – kelalaka Oct 22 '19 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, we might, although I don't have any strategy in my head yet on how to dot that. But I think it is important that we take more care for new questions / answers first - especially for new users / in the review queue - or the stack will just keep building up. User initiative is of course highly appreciated! $\endgroup$ – Maarten Bodewes Oct 22 '19 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ Generally I agree. However, we might need a list of what we consider canonical names. E.g. Damgård is rarely spelled correctly. (And even the canonical workaround as far as I understand Danish rules "Damgaard" is rarely used) So what do we consider correct? $\endgroup$ – Maeher Oct 22 '19 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Maeher That's a good idea and ifwe make such a list then people can just copy Damgård so it becomes easier to get right. Unfortunately I cannot seem to train my Firefox webbrowser to suggest the correct names, and then mistakes are made. $\endgroup$ – Maarten Bodewes Oct 22 '19 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ Any rules you set down here should be justified not by your say-so but by reference to consistent usage in the cryptography literature. Where the usage is not consistent, these rules are not helpful. For example, Taher Elgamal does not write his name as ElGamal. One can make the case for Elgamal or for ElGamal by reference to existing literature, but you are overreaching by setting down a rigid rule here. $\endgroup$ – Squeamish Ossifrage Oct 23 '19 at 0:08
  • $\begingroup$ @SqueamishOssifrage OK, but then we could list the different names, right? As long as we agree that not all spellings are correct, because currently many questions and sometimes answers make a bit of a mess out of it. $\endgroup$ – Maarten Bodewes Oct 23 '19 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ Here is an example where it is correct to say ‘Aes’: crypto.stackexchange.com/q/75230. The fact that this is in a quotation makes it unlikely to be detected by any sort of automated process of applying the proposed changes. $\endgroup$ – Squeamish Ossifrage Oct 23 '19 at 2:59
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not going to worry about technical difficulties of a tool if we don't even have such a tool, if you don't mind. And as said, we'll get back to it if it does become an issue. $\endgroup$ – Maarten Bodewes Oct 23 '19 at 3:29

We don't need any new rules: the help center already endorses fixing spelling mistakes.

Any such changes should be individually justified and should not counteract the author's reasonable style choices. The examples listed do not make a good set of rules for slavish adherence.

  • Different spellings of ElGamal

The cryptographer (and now CTO of Salesforce) spells his name Taher Elgamal in English. The original Arabic is طاهر الجمل, which does not have case distinctions. One could reasonably read الجمل with a definite article and transliterate it as ‘al-Jamal’ just as well as one could reasonably transliterate it with the anglophone typographical conventions for names as ‘Elgamal’. ‘ElGamal’ also appears in print, in publications before he decided that the intermediate uppercase letter was too much trouble to deal with.

While ‘al-Jamal’ may not be recognizable in cryptography, ‘Elgamal’ and ‘ElGamal’ are both justifiable and we should not edit one to the other.

  • Spelling of Vigenère with 'e' instead of 'é';

Blaise de Vigenère, the diplomat and cryptographer of the XVIe century to whom the Vigenère cipher is misattributed, had his name typeset in publications as Blaiſe de Vigenere (example; note the use of accents elsewhere in the same publication, suggesting a conscious decision).

While there is nothing wrong with writing Vigenère to reflect the orthography for modern Parisian pronunciation, I see no reason impose upon ourselves a rule to bow before the authoritarian prescriptions of l'Académie française; the Vigenère cipher is just as recognizable as the Vigenere cipher.

  • Aes-128 where the acronym is not in caps;

Aes-128 is an abomination.

  • AES128 or SHA256 where the dash is missing;

The dash is appropriate in some contexts and inappropriate in others. In isolation it is a little clearer on the eyes to talk about SHA-256 and SHA3-256 than than to talk about SHA256 and SHA3256; but while SHA3-256 is nicer than SHA-3-256, SHA-3 is nicer than SHA3; and it is clearer to say HMAC-SHA256 than to say HMAC-SHA-256—yet with the possible exception of SHA3256 (which sometimes appears in programming interfaces and is not much more wrong than Poly1305 to refer to $2^{130} - 5$ or Curve25519 to refer to $2^{255} - 19$) none of these is wrong.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of professional minds.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree that we should not overdo things, but just because programming languages have trouble with the dash is not a good reason for leaving it out here. I've never understood why people seem to bow down - as you would call it - to computers, e.g. when literally defining thousand to $2^{10}$ because it is near and a factor of 2. At least the caps and probably the special characters can be found using a search even if you don't apply them correctly. $\endgroup$ – Maarten Bodewes Oct 23 '19 at 0:22
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    $\begingroup$ Concerning ElGamal: it appears that he changed his mind about the spelling at some point. His original publications do appear to use the ElGamal spelling. Whereas his patents from the nineties do not. So reasonably, when referring to the publication, ElGamal should be preferred to be consistent with the bibliographical information. While Elgamal would be reasonable when referring to him as a person. $\endgroup$ – Maeher Oct 23 '19 at 3:12
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, he changed his mind after having too much trouble with ElGamal, according to a Wikipedian editor in 2004 who claimed to have worked for him (Jon Callas?). Neither ElGamal nor Elgamal is wrong per se but Elgamal better reflects his current wishes to the best of my knowledge, so while I won't edit anything to change ElGamal to Elgamal, I write Elgamal myself. $\endgroup$ – Squeamish Ossifrage Oct 23 '19 at 3:16
  • $\begingroup$ More from a noted expert on Arab/English affairs. $\endgroup$ – Squeamish Ossifrage Oct 23 '19 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ It's somewhat ironic that the spelling that caused him trouble stuck around so firmly in the cryptographic literature. $\endgroup$ – Maeher Oct 23 '19 at 9:31

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