Tim wrote today with an acronym situation he would like to resolve. What do you think about his desire to spell out acronyms and initialisms, even when writing for SMEs (subject-matter experts)?
Here is his message:
I read your blog on acronyms this morning and agreed with all the points. After all, I've been a tech writer for more than 30 years.
Maybe that time in the business makes my mind warp at times. I work with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) experts and system integrators. I use short sentences and format to keep their stuff from becoming jargon.
The problem is that I get situations where the list of acronyms can rival or even surpass the document, and my colleagues complain about the spelled out acronyms. I've become sympathetic that there are communities of interest (COIs) where the expertise is so high that spelling out an acronym makes a presentation less, not more legible because these people "think in code."
I've experimented with pop-up text for acronyms, but I can't let go of the gospel that acronyms have to be spelled out on first use and compiled in a list, usually an appendix. I have trouble making a convention where certain acronyms don't need to be defined because I can't take the word of my co-workers for granted, even if they might be right.
What would you do if you worked in such a highly technical environment and needed to create consistent, correct technical documents?
Please share your advice for Tim. Should he ignore the "gospel" that acronyms have to be spelled out on first use? Should he experiment with letting some acronyms and initialisms stand alone?
Here are some of my other posts on acronyms: