Discussion Time: Acronyms



Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing?  I’m doing great, making slow progress on Operation Breakout, and hope to hit 60k words this Sunday.  I’m making slow strides with my Dragon, but my hands are thanking me for it.  I just plotted out the pre-battle scenes, and then I write the climactic battle and the wrap up.  I won’t make my goal of finishing it in January, but I’m only 2 weeks from finishing my first draft!!


As an update, I’m still giving away my The Sleeping Legion prequel novella, The Demons of Kor-Lir through our newsletter.  I’ll also periodically send out book deals and recommendations, though I’ll never spam you or give away your email address, you’ve got my word on that one.  And you can take that to the bank!  Seriously, and if it has monetary value, could you buy me a coffee?  Starving artist here!


Okay, onto todays topic.  I would love to start a dialog in the comments about the proper use of acronyms. I grew up in a military family, and am the son of a sailor. Wow, that almost sounds like a band or a song… somebody should make that happen! Terms like head (bathroom), port (left) and starboard (right) were common. I knew what a quarterdeck was before I had a quarter to my name. Okay, that was a cheap joke, but as a recovering infantryman at least I’m not eating glue anymore. Then I enlisted into the Army, and became indoctrinated into the ways of the Big Green Weenie.  I learned that a bathroom was really called the latrine, my apologies to the sailors among us. We learned that the word home had a dual meaning.  Sadly, for most of us the only applicable one meant walking really really far, with all of our stuff on our back.


Every profession has these, terms that are job specific. Sometimes the terms are actually acronyms, like FRAGO. A frago is a term for a Fragmentary Order.  This term is used to send prompt updates for existing orders to subordinate and supporting commanders.  Basically, it means “oops, we forgot this on the first message.”  There are hundreds of acronyms out there like this one, but I won’t bore you to tears. The point is, every profession has them. The point of discussion is, how much is too much?  Or, when is it not enough to make the story feel authentic? What are your thoughts on this? Where is the natural crossover between niche dialogue among similarly skilled characters and what is commonly known by your audience?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Once I’ve figured it out, I’ll write a summary World Building Wednesday post!




Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!




–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.


12 thoughts on “Discussion Time: Acronyms

  1. Sounds like I’m in good company with how many acronyms are in my field! Here as a new counselor, we have acronyms for everything from treatment approaches (CBT, DBT, EMDR, etc.) to licenses (LPC-I, LPC-S, LMFT, and on and on). I think we humans love to simplify our language a little too much, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a journalist, I actually have a source that discusses abbreviations and acronyms. The general rule is to “avoid alphabet soup.” In general actually, you want to avoid them all together, as they’re very rarely understood. AP (and I’m sure CMOS) have a list of acronyms everyone knows (FBI and NASA to name a few) but we military folk get carried away. Also of note is the use of parentheses. Most people think they need to put those around the acronym. For instance if I say I work for the Department of Logistics (DOL). That’s actually also not in accordance with the style guide journalists are responsible for sticking to.

    This becomes complicated. I even make a joke about it in one of my books. There’s a distinction, of course, between narration and dialogue. If a teal sergeant is talking to his grunts, he’s going to down a can of alphabet soup and spit it at them, expecting their appreciation afterward. It’s just natural for how they work. In Military fiction, we see this more because the audience has a common core of understanding. This means that audience (as always) has the final say. Military fiction will probably use military acronyms heavily. As would medical fiction and whatever else. Knowing your audience is key. Those are my two cents.

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