As we all know, you typically abbreviate something the first time that particular term shows up in a paper. However, I've been told in the past that certain things in a paper should be written in such a way that 'it stands on its own'. One such thing would include the abstract of the paper. So, perhaps a
<STRING> appears in the abstract that I want to abbreviate. Now one of two things can happen.
<STRING> appears more than once in the abstract, I could abbreviate the first instance and then just use the abbreviation from that point on.
<STRING> appears only ONCE in the abstract, then I shouldn't abbreviate it because then I would have defined an abbreviation that I would not have used again (given the concept of 'the abstract should be able to stand on its own).
The problem with (2) is that people will immediately think that the 'first instance' of
<STRING> should be abbreviated and don't immediately consider the 'stand-alone' idea so I'm either having to revise or try to put up a convincing argument for what I did.
Also, I've been told by some that tables and figures should be able to 'stand on their own'. So, if the abbreviation for
<STRING> appears in the table somewhere (or the caption), then I should explicitly spell out
<STRING> and then define an abbreviation for it right then and there, even if I have already done so earlier on in the text of the paper.
So, my question is, what is the proper way of handling these abbreviations and is the idea of 'this piece must be able to stand on its own' valid (and if its valid, what exactly does this idea apply to)?
I am a computational chemist so we pretty much are forced to use the alphabet-soup of acronyms. MP2 is preferred over "second-order Moller-Plesset perturbation theory" and is commonly used. CCSD(T) is preferred over "The coupled-cluster method that includes all single and double substitutions as well as a perturbative treatment of the connected triple excitations". The list can go on and on. If this wasn't abbreviated in an abstract, having to 'spell it out' even a few times would make for an incredibly long abstract, figure caption, table, etc.