Acronyms and abbreviations are a great way to tighten up your writing and save yourself some keystrokes, but they’re only clear to insiders who use them on a regular basis.
Good writers are careful to follow these rules for using acronyms and abbreviations, writes Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, an expert on.
- Keep them out of your email signature. Not everyone will immediately recognize your organization by its acronym, so spell it out in full.
- Start by spelling them out. If you use an acronym more than once, spell it out in full the first time you use it. Depending on the stylebook you follow, you can either put the acronym in parentheses immediately after, or just use it on the next mention.
- Use hyperlinks in long electronic documents, linking the abbreviations to a spelled-out version. That way, readers don’t have to keep scrolling back to the top if they forget what the abbreviation means.
- Don’t bother for minimal use. If you’re only using a term once or twice, just spell it out and don’t abbreviate at all.
- Abbreviate when the shortened version is better known. ROTC, AIDS and ATM are all acronyms that are more familiar than their spelled-out versions. In cases like these, it’s fine to just use the acronym without giving the full spelled-out version.
— Adapted from “Acronyms Make Me Work Too Hard,” Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Business Writing.