I'm wondering if there is an accepted way to prefix part numbers in technical writing. What I have seen a lot in our documents is:

Reference the test part P/N 12345.

Or in a table or list of parts:

P/N 12345 Test Part

I think the "P/N" takes up too much space, is superfluous, and is just unsightly. I would like to remove all "P/N" and "PN" and just use the number itself, as I believe it should be clear that a part number is being referenced. What I have now is:

Reference the test part (12345).

Most important to me is to be consistent. If anyone believes that the "P/N" is the good and correct way to do things, I'll stick with that.

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    – Secespitus
    Mar 7 '18 at 14:06
  • 1
    As a former technical writer, it always irritated me to see a ‘/‘ as part of an abbreviation for something that has no slash. For your case, I would personally use the parentheses and explain in the front matter that those are part numbers.
    – WGroleau
    Mar 8 '18 at 11:14

Long ago, I used to write manuals for large, complex machines, and so had a lot of part number references; I've seen (and used) Part Number 123456, PN 123456, P/N 123456, Number 123456, N123456, No. 123456, P: 123456, and #123456 all as prefixes to part numbers.

I think it's down to what will work best to set your company's standard, what's simple and consistent with other elements of your company style guide, what's easily readable by your readers, and what's easily managed by your IT and marketing folks for websites & help systems.

Because I too am curious about what's most commonly used now, I've posted a variation of this question in a tech writer's Slack forum I'm part of, and will comment the aggregated responses here once I've received and assessed them.

  • Having dropped that question in the Write-the-Docs Slack community General channel last week, I received one explicit reply, which supports P/N; all others basically punted to "depends on your company-wide styleguide(s) - have you checked what's in the marketing materials?" so I think we can say there's isn't a standard with a strong adherence. Mar 12 '18 at 16:23

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