Acronym Application and Use...

-K2-

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Please correct me if I'm wrong;

It's my understanding, that the proper way to introduce an acronym is to first use spell it out, and then add the acronym so they're associated. As an example:
She worked for the Restored Constitution Federal Government, or RCFG,...
She worked for the Restored Constitution Federal Government (RCFG),...
From there on out, I'm good to go with using the acronym (I believe) where it is useful.

I have a significant number of new organizations in my manuscript like the above, which get used rather frequently. However, it would read better if I could utilize the acronym earlier, revealing it a little later in a more appropriate section (where it won't trip up the flow). In the example above, I could use the word 'government' alone to get by, but, that would actually be incorrect. There are a few other layers of government which would be better known (by the majority of charcters), the RCFG the actual, not officially recognized, ruling body...which, the character would be speaking about.

So my question is, would it be terribly improper to use the acronym a bit at first and then 'reveal what it means' a couple pages later?
A second question is, if I must introduce an acronym before using it, could I avoid the 'or RCFG/(RCFG),' and simply use it in the same paragraph keeping it close (perhaps a couple sentences later)?


Thanks for your response and help!

K2
 

DannMcGrew

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In Associated Press style one first uses the complete name United Nations and then on the second reference the acronym is used: The United Nations headquarters is in New York City. At the UN there are many ambassadors. But other American publications styles use the full name with acronym in parentheses immediately following and then the acronym alone in further mentions.
Do not capitalize the words from which an acronym or initialism is derived enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
Exception: When the words that form the acronym or initialism are proper names, use capitals Ministry of Silly Walks (MSW)

British style differs. If an abbreviation or acronym is to be used more than once in a piece, put it in brackets at first mention: so Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), seasonal affective disorder (Sad). Note also that British style uses an initial cap rather than all caps in American style.
Use all capitals if an abbreviation is pronounced as the individual letters (an initialism): BBC, CEO, US, VAT, etc; if it is an acronym (pronounced as a word) spell out with initial capital, eg Nasa, Nato, Unicef

So, I'd think you might want to use AP style. However William Goldman had great fun never explaining ROUS until very late in The Princess Bride.
 

The Judge

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It's my understanding, that the proper way to introduce an acronym is to first use spell it out, and then add the acronym so they're associated.
Since you're writing a novel, not a technical piece or a newspaper article, there is no "proper way" -- you can do it in whatever way you want. However, to my mind both

She worked for the Restored Constitution Federal Government, or RCFG,...​
She worked for the Restored Constitution Federal Government (RCFG),...​

are clumsy, since they shriek infodump -- this isn't the character thinking, it's you the author telling us something you believe we need to know.

If in the context of the novel someone is writing a paper about her, then it might pass muster, but otherwise I'd urge you to keep well away from this kind of thing. If someone is explaining her to someone else, then it's better as something like "She worked for the RCFG." "The what?" "You know, the Restored [etc]". If this is Rokka-Kae herself thinking, then she would never use the full name -- you wouldn't have a character think, "I work for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation" -- you'd always use the acronym, or nickname eg "the Company".

So my question is, would it be terribly improper to use the acronym a bit at first and then 'reveal what it means' a couple pages later?
Not improper at all. The only important factor is to ensure your readers keep reading to find out what it means, so it's usually better to bring in the full version sooner rather than later, but frankly this full version is so indigestible, and so info-dumpy in feel, you'll need the perfect opening to get it in without it being wholly objectionable.

A second question is, if I must introduce an acronym before using it, could I avoid the 'or RCFG/(RCFG),' and simply use it in the same paragraph keeping it close (perhaps a couple sentences later)?
This is certainly better than the "or RCFG/(RCFG)" alternatives, yes, but doing it the other way around would be fine, too, as I've said above ie the acronym first then the explanation shortly thereafter.

And don't worry about using "government" even if it's technically incorrect -- in real life we all use expressions which are technically imprecise to avoid long explanations, and "government" is a catch-all term like "bureaucrats" which encompasses a great deal and doesn't need to be defined in greater detail at the time.

The big thing to avoid is any hint that you're explaining things to the reader. Don't explain, narrate the story. So not a plain "She worked for the government." but something like "She hated her employers. The government might pay her, but that didn't mean they bought her loyalty." That gets across the fact she works for them without saying so baldly, and shows what she thinks about them.

That help?
 

tinkerdan

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What @The Judge said:

What I did when I started my novels was have the full name like Greater Terran Galactic Properties. Then afterwards, the next time it came up, GTGP.
I Quickly learned from beta's that I had to occasionally remind the reader so it became a series of random reminders and Acronyms.
I think that response was because there are more than half a dozen acronyms; though less than a full dozen.
As I went I tried to pay attention to dialogue, because when we speak we often use them indiscriminately. I did a local area/page hunt to see when it was last defined and if it seemed stranded out there I went the other way and put the full term in the dialogue if it fit the character and circumstances.

The two do have to be close enough together that the reader doesn't have to go hunting in case they can't remember what CSS or LJG stand for. And in some cases I decided that in narrative there would be fewer acronyms. That way I only had to pay close attention to the dialogue and somehow put the definition close while not making it to obvious that its explaining things to the reader. There has to be a smooth logical flow to how you present it and that was why I ended up with a few times removing the acronym from dialogue. That was dicey sometimes because these were quasi-military groups and some of them like their acronyms and can't say the words.
 

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Thanks @DannMcGrew , @The Judge & @tinkerdan ;

All of that is very helpful and answers my questions entirely. @DannMcGrew ; you led me to looking up a number of standards which should also help in the future, thanks for that. @tinkerdan ; fortunately (by sheer luck), I've already added in those refreshers throughout. It's a good point I'll keep in mind while performing reviews and edits. In this work, there are a significant number of long, overblown and clumsy organizational names. There is a point to it, so I'll keep them, but, there are points where I need to differentiate which group I'm talking about. So the acronyms help.

@The Judge ; Just for the record, I made up the example line used above. However, I wholeheartedly agree that the name is incredibly clumsy and no one (most of the characters) would never use it. As mentioned to tinkerdan, that's the intent with all aspects of the government in the series.

As for that division of government, as you confirmed, I hoped to initially use the acronym (which would be how people would state it specifically (much like FBI, CIA, SAS)). A page or two later, the character views a propaganda poster, which is described as she looks it over. There is where I would write out the full name, then be done with it until the next opportune moment.

Thanks everyone. As I have said often here, your help on these seemingly insignificant points has a much greater affect on what I'm working on and mostly, my education. I take your points, investigate them elsewhere to learn more, then apply them throughout. Thanks so very much!

K2



 

KiraAnn

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Not trying to derail this thread, but since I am an older person, all the examples have been initialisms and not acronyms. The latter are initialisms that can be pronounced as words. So radar, sonar, and laser are acronyms but FBI, CIA, and UN are initialisms.

I would suggest that if your beta readers complained about those initialisms, then cut them down or eliminate altogether. After all, is it important to the story that GTGP means whatever it means or would it be more important to use a more meaningful handle, perhaps just “Greater Terran?”
 

Ursa major

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FBI, CIA and UN are TLAs (though not necessarily using the same expansion of T...).
 

-K2-

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Not trying to derail this thread, but since I am an older person, all the examples have been initialisms and not acronyms. The latter are initialisms that can be pronounced as words. So radar, sonar, and laser are acronyms but FBI, CIA, and UN are initialisms.

I would suggest that if your beta readers complained about those initialisms, then cut them down or eliminate altogether. After all, is it important to the story that GTGP means whatever it means or would it be more important to use a more meaningful handle, perhaps just “Greater Terran?”

Thanks. I did read that or similar many times as I researched acronyms, yet it never really sank in (frankly disregarding it somewhat), though I'll remember now. As to "my readers," there was never a complaint. Then again, you'd have to read some of my earlier work they enjoyed to understand, they are overly generous and kind. The point is, to now do things right. Regarding this issue, using initialisms and acronyms when the reader would rather see and use them themselves instead of the whole name. Some are never defined in the story (there is no reason, we're just reading a conversation), those are found in the glossary.

Thanks for the help!

K2
 

DannMcGrew

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One other thought -- If the reader stops reading to wonder what it means an unexplained acronym is not a good idea.
 

DannMcGrew

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Just a little more grist for the mill from Merriam-Webster. Not meant to be argumentative just another shake of the gray head over changes in language.

What is the difference between the words acronym and initialism?
Acronym is a fairly recent word, dating from the 1940s, although acronyms existed long before we gave them that name. The term was preceded in English by the word initialism, meaning an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of a phrase, and which has been in use since the late 19th century.
Some people feel strongly that acronym should only be used for terms like NATO, which is pronounced as a single word, and that initialism should be used if the individual letters are all pronounced distinctly, as with FBI. Our research shows that acronym is commonly used to refer to both types of abbreviations.
 

dannymcg

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First pick a cool word and then finesse the words in it ....
FIST - federation of inter state truckers
BOSS - bureau of state security

Note: Take care because this produced what is, imo, a really clumsy example
HOLMES - home office large major enquiry system
 

tinkerdan

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Regardless of rules:
PCMCIA stands for Personal Computer Memory Card International Association, better know as People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronym says it all for me and I think it stands well as the rule to acronyms.
 

KiraAnn

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I remember the old 8080 operating system CP/M and it’s Dynamic Debugging Tool (DDT)
:ROFLMAO:
 
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