By Bernard Appiah, 18 June 2013
By Barbara Gastel, 18 June 2013
By Ravi Murugesan, 17 June 2013
By Barbara Gastel, 16 June 2013
By Barbara Gastel, 11 June 2013
By Barbara Gastel | 10 March 2013
Recently I received an e-mail message that said it was from the NAPB. “That’s odd,” I thought. “I had heard that the National Association of Physician Broadcasters no longer existed.”
Even more strangely, the message seemed to be about agriculture, not medical communication. Then I realized: This NAPB was the National Association of Plant Breeders.
This example of confusion about an abbreviation was amusing. But sometimes the situation isn’t so funny.
I recall sitting next to the head of a funding agency at a research conference overseas. Many researchers who were speaking didn’t define the abbreviations they were using. Therefore their presentations were hard to understand.
The funding-agency head became angrier and angrier. I don’t think he felt very inclined to support such researchers again. (One good outcome, though: The experience confirmed his desire to fund a project to improve research communication.)
Editors, too, say that a common problem is failure to define acronyms and other abbreviations.
In general, a term should be written in full the first time it appears in a given publication or presentation. An abbreviation for the term can then go immediately after it in parentheses. On later uses, the abbreviation can appear alone.
Normally, mainly well-established abbreviations should be used. Beware of coining many abbreviations of your own. The space that is saved might not be worth the confusion.
Also, if a document contains many abbreviations that might be new to readers, consider putting them in table. One way or another, don’t leave readers wondering!
Until the next post—