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rebbel's avatar

SAAAABFBTM (Should abbreviations and acronyms always be followed by their meaning)

Asked by rebbel (34470points) November 3rd, 2011

In the newspaper that I read the writer always lets an acronym follow by the meaning of it (at the first time the acronym is used in the article) for instance: CEO (Chief Executive Officer).
And today I read an acronym that I didn’t know yet MIA (Missing In Action) here on Fluther.
I see those multiple times in the days that I visit Fluther.
I like to think that I usually explain the acronyms that I use in my questions and answers, as a kind of service to my responders/readers.
Plus, it might make a question or response more clear too, I think.
Would you like to see that happen on Fluther too?
I know that occasionally Jellies do it already, but to me it seems that it is more a rarity than standard.
Not all Jellies know all the abbreviations and acronyms that are commonplace in other Jellies’ societies, me thinks.
What is your take on it?

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30 Answers

Nullo's avatar

As I recall, the AP Style Guide directs you to write it out in long form and then using language to the effect of “referred to elsewhere in this article as A.C.R.O.N.Y.M”, inform your reader of your meaning.

Jeruba's avatar

Publishers have a house style that usually includes rules for the treatment of acronyms. A common rule is to expand them at first use, followed by the initials or abbreviation in parentheses, unless they are so well known to the expected audience that expansion would be silly. For example, for a technical audience you probably wouldn’t have to spell out CPU or IP. For a general audience, you’d have to spell out a lot more, but there’ll still be exceptions. I have never seen an American newspaper expand “GOP,” for example.

It’s a nice courtesy to expand acronyms in a wide-open environment such as this, where so many of them are culture-specific or subculture-specific (such as the subculture of TV viewership). (And there—I’m assuming that you know TV means television.) But in every area of my life I have encountered considerable numbers of people who simply never think about the person who doesn’t share his or her context, whether professional, social, or specific to some kind of activity from sports to astronomy. I never hesitate to ask. There is nothing wrong with saying “What does that mean?”

marinelife's avatar

It is standard form to put the meaning of the acronym in parenthesis after the first use.

rebbel's avatar

@Jeruba and @Nullo Thank you both!
That is exactly how it is done in the newspaper I referred to (first the written meaning, then the acronym), but I put it the other way around in my question.
@Jeruba “I never hesitate to ask. There is nothing wrong with saying “What does that mean?”
Me neither.
That is also how I found out what MIA means.
What does GOP mean, by the way?

Jeruba's avatar

“Grand Old Party.” A nickname for the Republicans.

Mantralantis's avatar

Yes. Without a doubt, everyone should finally know what Q.A.S.Q. stands for…

YARNLADY's avatar

In a newspaper, the first use, yes, otherwise no. Everywhere else, usually yes.

Hibernate's avatar

Depending on the acronym. Some of them are really common. Some aren’t.

rebbel's avatar

@Hibernate Common to you (or others), doen’t mean common to me (or others).

janbb's avatar

Only for Dutch people who shall remain nameless. :-)

Mantralantis's avatar

Actually, if I see an acronym that’s usually not widespread it is usually written out word for word. Which is a good thing.

rebbel's avatar

@janbb You are so flirting with the naming no names rule there, you ;-)

Blackberry's avatar

You’re supposed to do it in papers, why not anywhere else? Just because a majority understand them doesn’t mean we should forget about the minority. There are still some I’m unaware of.

filmfann's avatar

It isn’t quite the same to say “STFU (shut the fuck up)”

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Usually, I write the full meaning first and put the acronym in parentheses…something like ‘In reading Weber’s Economy & Society (ES, hereafter)...’

lillycoyote's avatar

MIA along with POW (Prisoner of War) are, I believe U.S. military terms/acronyms that have been around for a fairly long time, but really came into common usage among the general population during the Vietnam war. They are acronyms that are now so familiar to people in the U.S. that I don’t think Americans would even think to, think it necessary to explain what they mean. They wouldn’t be so familiar outside the U.S., I guess. Text messaging abbreviations on the other completely baffle me most of the time. Someone used this one, AFAIK, here the other day and I had no idea what it meant. I had to look it up. I now know that it means “as far as I know”. :-)

perspicacious's avatar

The first time they appear in a document.

zensky's avatar

Usually the name of an organization not immediately known to all will be written out in parentheses after the first occurence in an article.

There are some, however, MIA among them, which are so well-known (to native English speakers, of course) that they have become words unto themselves, and require no explanation. Nor abbreviation. MIA – not M.I.A. See?

By the way, MIA, CIA and FBI are not acronyms, per se, they are initialisms.

An acronym is an abbreviation that is pronounced as a word (e.g. SCUBA).

An initialism is an abbreviation that is pronounced letter-by-letter (e.g. CIA).

If you can’t say it as a word, it isn’t an acronym. JEEP is, U.F.O is not.

Interestingly, many words are actually what has become known as backronyms. A backronym or bacronym is a phrase constructed purposely, such that an acronym can be formed to a specific desired word. Backronyms may be invented with serious or humorous intent, or may be a type of false or folk etymology.

A famous one is GOLF – Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.

GQ my friend – it’s the way to learn.

As Dr. Samuel Johnson once wrote; the next best thing to knowing something is knowing where to find it.

ucme's avatar

For years I assumed NASA stood for North American Space Agency, a case for the defence m’lud.
I’m much more tuned in now though, FBI…..Face Book Idiots. See, i’m such a clever bugger!

Hibernate's avatar

@rebbel I’m referring to abbreviations like “lol, etc, qed”. I’m sure at some point you came across them and 90% of the people know what they mean.

rebbel's avatar

@Hibernate Ahhhh, those…., yes, they are widely known, I suppose to most.
Thank you for clarifying!

zensky's avatar

Actually, LOL (and OMG) entered the English language as a verb this year.

And why is this meta? It’s about language.

janbb's avatar

Well, I think it’s about language on Fluther for @rebbel.

But I don’t think OMG could be considered a verb; I didn’t see that in the article but maybe I missed something.

rebbel's avatar

Yup, the question was about acronyms and abbrevations (and initialisms) on Fluther.
And I want to thank you all for your responses!

zensky's avatar

I OMGed a little when I read that.

janbb's avatar

And I just oy veyed a little.

zensky's avatar

Hey – you may be onto something. Oy vey as a verb. Or is that phrasal verb. He he.

rebbel's avatar

Oy, what the heck are you two on about?
I have no idea what is going on…...:-)

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