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April 1982

Acronym v Initialism

Author Affiliations

Department of Pathology Oklahoma Children's Memorial Hospital and University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Oklahoma City, OK 73126

Am J Dis Child. 1982;136(4):377. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1982.03970400095033

To the Editor.—I agree fully with the admonition of Shaw to "watch the acronyms, initialisms, and abbreviations" (Journal 1981;135:789). In addition, I wish to caution against "loose," if not incorrect, application of the word "acronym." The author failed to adhere strictly to the original and generally accepted definition when he referred to GFR as an acronym, which should be classified instead as an initialism. To quote from Acronyms, Initialisms, and Abbreviations Dictionary,1 "An acronym is composed of the initial letters or parts of a compound term. It is usually read or spoken as a single word, rather than letter by letter. Examples include RADAR (Radio Detection and Ranging) and LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). An initialism is also composed by letter, rather than as a single 'word.' Examples include PO (Post Office) and RPM (Revolutions per Minute)."

Obviously, whether one distinguishes between "acronym" and "initialism"