Q. I am editing a military memoir with frequent use of acronyms such as IED (improvised explosive device), DFAC (dining hall), MWR (morale, welfare, and recreation). Should these terms be spelled out throughout the manuscript, or is it appropriate to use the acronym after it has been described in a parenthetical on the first reference?
A. By all means, use the acronyms. The whole point of acronyms is to provide a shorthand form for unwieldy terms after they’ve been introduced. If you find you don’t actually need a particular acronym after defining the term, reconsider whether you need to introduce the acronym in the first place. Conversely, if you think your acronyms will be so familiar to your readers that they don’t need expansion, skip the explanations. Finally, if you’re worried that the number of acronyms will overwhelm the reader, provide a list somewhere.