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More advice about acronyms

Here are a few pointers about using acronyms:

  • Define the acronym when it is first used, spelling it out and then putting the abbreviation in parenthesis—for example, “people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).” Thereafter just use the acronym.
  • Don’t capitalize the first letter of each word that comprises an acronym unless it is a proper noun—for example, “return on investment (ROI),” not “Return On Investment (ROI).”
  • Don’t define an acronym or use all capital letters if it is a commonly used word (such as laser or radar).
  • Don’t define an acronym if it is the standard use of a company’s name (such as IBM).
  • Treat the executive summary, main text, and each appendix as separate documents, defining acronyms on their first appearance in each section.
  • Don’t use an acronym unless it appears more than once in a document. There’s no need to inundate your readers with acronyms they won’t see again.

For information on defining acronyms, check out my post “Having problems figuring out what the heck that acronym means?”.

2 Responses to More advice about acronyms

  1. Carole September 27, 2007 at 8:00 am #

    When using an ACRONYM is it necessary to preface it with “the” or can it stand alone with “the” being implied. For example, using the word POTUS for President of the United States in the following sentence:

    All legislation from Congress goes to the President of the United States for signature. POTUS has the authority to veto legislation.

    In the second sentence is it required to have “The” proceed POTUS or is it correct to leave the sentence as it is written?


  2. Zach Everson October 8, 2007 at 10:20 pm #

    Good question. When deciding whether or not to use “the” before an acronym, I just go with what sounds correct. So in the second sentence I would omit “the.”