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Write the Right Word: Initialisms

Initialisms are a type of abbreviation. They consist of the first letter of a string of words, such as the name of a business or organization, or a phrase, and can’t be pronounced as a word. NDSU and FBI are good examples. So is LOL (texting shorthand for “laugh out loud”).

Almost everyone likely knows what the FBI is, but I suspect only those who work with terms such as ADG, NDF or HRSW have a clue what they mean. So if you don’t want your readers to have to stop and look them up, skip over them or simply quit reading your message, then spell out initialisms on the first reference. Then follow the term or name with the initialism in parentheses if you plan to refer to it later in the same piece.

Note: Do not put the initialism in parentheses if you do not mention it again in the same article, publication, etc.

Even spelling out common initialisms such as NDSU on first reference is a good idea because in today’s global connectivity, you have no idea where your writing might end up. Why make understanding your message difficult?

For example:

* Studies showed a similar average daily gain (ADG) when hull-less oats replaced barley in diets for growing calf.

* Neutral detergent fiber (NDF) is the most common measure of fiber used for animal feed analysis.

* The hard red spring wheat (HRSW) breeding program was featured in the spring issue of Tech Transfer Times.

Ellen Crawford, information specialist, (701) 231-5391

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