In science, it is very common to shorten nouns with acronyms (e.g. deoxyribonucleic acid -> DNA). However, I am struggling to think of any examples of sets of adjectives that are written as an acronym.

I am writing a scientific document, in which I must describe my data in a specific way. For the sake of this question, let's say it's "high time resolution data". It is important to distinguish the data as high time resolution data, as it is a unique type of data in the field, and the document requires justification of the significance of analysis of this data. I do not think it is appropriate to drop the adjectives and simply describe it as "the data" due to the context of the document. Is it fine/acceptable to refer to it as "HTR data", in order to improve the brevity and readability of the text?

I should note that I would prefer to use "HTR data" instead of "HTRD" to allow for interchanging the word "data" for something else, like "measurements", where appropriate.

  • 1
    I suspect you mean abbreviation (e.g. IRS), and not acronym (e.g., RADAR)?
    – Alexis
    Nov 6 '20 at 17:24
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    Also: independently and identically distributed (IID) is all over statistics and the population sciences.
    – Alexis
    Nov 6 '20 at 17:27
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    Also, càdlàg. Nov 6 '20 at 19:16
  • @Alexis: The linked-to definitions suggest an acronym is a kind of abbreviation.
    – einpoklum
    Nov 7 '20 at 0:29
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    @einpoklum An acronym is a kind of abbreviation which one pronounces as a word. For example, 'radar' is pronounced RAY-dar, and not pronounced Ar Eh Why Dee Eh Ar. David Scott is not asking about acronyms. Contrast the way the acronym 'radar' is pronounced in speech with the way the abbreviated US government agency 'IRS' is pronounced (and, yes the latter kind of abbreviation is an initialism, as per wizzwizz4).
    – Alexis
    Nov 8 '20 at 2:34

I think that in general it would be fine as long as you use it consistently and introduce it properly again in every chapter. For example, in a sentence you could write something like this:

The High Time Resolution (HTR) data was analyzed using tool ABC. We found that the HTR data has X-property among Y observations.

However, this might be cumbersome and become repetitive at some point. If this HTR data is the only type of data in your paper, it would be an option to refer simply to the data since no confusion can occur about the data being High Time Resolution instead of some other type.

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    Perhaps I'll specify further, the document I'm writing is not a paper with results, but rather a milestone document for my PhD. As such, one of the main points of the document is to justify why my method is unique and significant, and it is the high time resolution nature of the data that makes it significant. So while it may seem cumbersome, I have to include the description almost all the time as I'm always referring to it. I think this answers my question though! Nov 6 '20 at 13:18

In most cases acronyms are unhelpful. It does not matter if they are nouns or verbs. Is it clearer to a non-expert reader as an acronym or written out? Nearly always written out is clearer. The exceptions occur when the acronym is used in popular culture (DNA) or the accepted written out name is so poorly chosen it is just as confusing as the accepted acronym.

Acronyms that are new are the least helpful.

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    I disagree that acronyms are unhelpful. In my field (astronomy) it would be extremely rare to find a paper that didn't use acronyms for brevity, and it would not seem unusual to me for an author to define a new one for convenience. Nov 6 '20 at 9:07
  • Acronyms are helpful if and only if they are not overused, but it is very easy (and common) to overuse them. Yes, terminology is clearer to non-expert readers if it is written out. See the accepted answer.
    – JeffE
    Nov 6 '20 at 20:55
  • There seems to be some confusion here between acronyms (e.g., laser, radar, etc.) and abbreviations (e.g., C.L.T., D.N.E, etc.)
    – Alexis
    Nov 6 '20 at 21:21
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    @DavidScott I stronlgy disagree that "acronyms for brevity" are helpful. Nov 7 '20 at 1:23
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    @DavidScott I'm well aware that astronomers use "AGN" all the time, but if it were really necessary (which it usually is not) to abbreviate "nucleus" would be a much clearer abbreviation to anyone who had not already heard "AGN" many times. Nov 7 '20 at 1:59

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