For instance, say I introduce the term "macular degeneration" in the abstract and follow it with (MD) to establish the abbreviation. Should I just use (MD) from then on, including in the introduction? Or is the abstract often read separately and the reader expects all groundwork to be laid from scratch in the introduction, including re-establishing what the MD abbreviation means? Alternatively, I suppose you can avoid all abbreviations in the abstract and establish them for the first time in the introduction. Which is most standard/correct?

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    I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I abhor the use of unnecessary acronyms. It's two words; you might as well write them out. Should you insist on using the acronym because "that's just what everybody does," I'd suggest writing it out a few times in the introduction before switching over to the acronym. Your readers may not be as used to that particular acronym as you expect, and seeing the concept in full more than once should help reinforce the concept-acronym association in their minds. By no means should you introduce the acronym in the abstract and assume everybody got the memo. Sep 11, 2023 at 6:15

2 Answers 2


I would just reintroduce it. What's the harm?

Journals typically have a style guide for how they handle abbreviations, so ultimately you can follow whatever their guide is.

APA also recommends redefinition:

If an abbreviation has appeared in the abstract as well as the text, define it on first use in both places.

  • One reason is that an abstract might also appear separately from the full paper, so it needs to be "complete" in some sense.
    – Buffy
    Aug 30, 2023 at 20:56
  • If you use the abbreviation in both places, then define it in both places. On the other hand, it’s seldom good to introduce an abbreviation you aren’t going to use; if you’re not going to use it, then there would need to be some other (good) reason to introduce it. Aug 30, 2023 at 22:20
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    I second this answer. I also tend to reintroduce acronyms and abbreviations in the Conclusion, as that section sometimes gets read separately. Figure and table captions may need introductions of acronyms and abbreviations, too, as figures and tables should ideally be self sufficient. Perhaps this is too much, but I would rather err on the side of being too explicit than not explicit enough. Aug 31, 2023 at 11:57

Some folks will read only the abstract, others will dive into the paper, and yet others will read both. It’s a matter of taste in the end. I’d say lean to the side of the reader’s convenience as you see it at this point of your career. Your style will change over time.

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