In this post, we define an acronym and give you seven rules for using acronyms.
What Is An Acronym?
An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of each word of a compound term. The word is pronounced as spelt and no full stops are used.
Writing Tip: Try not to use unfamiliar acronyms in your introductory paragraph. This side-tracks readers from your story.
7 Rules For Acronyms
- An acronym is usually written in uppercase. Examples: AWOL, LOL
- If the acronym has four letters or more and is pronounceable, we may use upper- and lowercase. Examples: Aids, Nasa, Interpol
- Contemporary acronyms do not need full stops. Examples: NATO, Scuba
- The contemporary rule is to write out the full name when first mentioned (with the acronym in brackets). Use only the acronym after this. Example: ‘The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) will decide on the issue. NATO leadership is made up of…’
- Some acronyms are so familiar we can assume readers recognise them. We do not need to write them out. Examples: Aids, Unicef. Many acronyms have become standard words. Examples: radar (radio detection and ranging), scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus),laser (light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation)
- Use ‘an’ in place of ‘a’ when the article precedes a vowel sound. It’s ‘an honour’ (the h is silent), but ‘a Unicef’ issue (it’s pronounced ‘yoo’). It’s the sound that matters.
- The word ‘the’ is unnecessary before some acronyms pronounced as words. Examples: Interpol, NATO