Rule number one: Don’t use acronyms.
The goal of writing, however, is to communicate your ideas. Sometimes an acronym will convey your thoughts to your audience better than the words it represents.
For example, if I wrote “Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation surgery is a popular way for people to correct their vision,” it might give you pause. Now, if I wrote “Laser surgery is a popular way for people to correct their vision,” you are more likely to understand me.
Here then is some guidance for when you do use acronyms (as always, your style manual may provide different guidelines).
- Use acronyms sparingly—only if it is one people actually use. Don’t create an acronym because you don’t feel like spelling out a few words.
- Define the acronym on first use, but donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t define an acronym unless it is used again in the document.
- Don’t capitalize the first letter of every word unless it is a proper noun. For example, use “frequently asked questions (FAQ),” not “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).”
- After an acronym has been defined, always use it and don’t spell it out again.
- Some acronyms (such as laser, radar, and AIDS) are so common that they do not need to be defined and, sometimes, do not need to be capitalized. Check the dictionary or your style manual for guidance.
- Treat the executive summary and appendices as separate documents. So define each acronym anew, but do not bother if it isn’t used again in that section.