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January 1, 1973

Abbreviations Boggle

JAMA. 1973;223(1):77. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220010063022

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Use of a sequence of letters to designate an organization, a committee, a laboratory test, a symptom, or a sign, when carried to extremes as often is the case, forms a pernicious practice of our times. Of course for medical readers, some letter sequences are easily recognized—AMA, FDA, NIH are known for what they are. So is AAMC although some physicians mistake it to mean American Association of Medical Colleges, much to the chagrin of the members of that organization. More complicated sequences usually befuddle the reader even when the journal editor seeks clear understanding by publishing a "box" of the abbreviations used in an article. The reader, unless he commits the "box" to memory at the outset, may find that he is forced to turn back to it as page follows page.

More amusing or more damaging, depending on the point of view, is the circumstance wherein the reader