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A Word, Please:

Moves that make reading more difficult

December 05, 2007|By JUNE CASAGRANDE

Read just about any top-tier newspaper and you’ll see how they deal with these situations: They use words. “The association,” “the social club,” “the group” — these are all words that exist in the database that is the reader’s mind, unlike AAPWSNBAOSO.

Occasionally, a writer will find herself in a corner when the initialism appears in a quotation. “AAPWSNBAOSO doesn’t want her, either,” said Lance Dulles, president of AAPWSNBAOSO.

The way to deal with this is to set it up beforehand. Find a place to insert, “?.?.?. the association, which members refer to as AAPWSNBAOSO,” and then introduce the quotation.


That — as nicely as I can put it — is just one of the many gripes that are turning me into the type of person I used to pity and/or hurl rotten vegetables at. For a more lively and expletive-filled explanation of why this is no way to treat a reader, or to hear more, strap some brain-scan electrodes to my head any time I’m doing freelance work. You’ll get an earful.

But to prove I’m still nice, I’ll now explain why I’ve been using the term “initialism” instead of “acronym” throughout this article. According to “Webster’s New World College Dictionary,” an acronym is “a word formed from the first (or first few) letters of a series of words, as ‘radar,’ from radio detecting and ranging.” But if you pronounce each letter individually, it’s an initialism.

And with that, I get to cling to my “nice” label, if only until the next time I see AAPWSNBAOSO in a story.

?JUNE CASAGRANDE is a freelance writer and author of “Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies.” You can reach her at

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