I was wondering if there was a rule regarding the use of acronyms at the start of the sentence in Journal Papers.

If so, is there a difference between the state of use of that acronym (i.e., whether it is being referred to as a noun or verb st the start of the sentence).

According to my understand and research, it seems that it is not advisable to start the sentence with Acronyms, however, there is no set reference for it.

Note: the use of that acronym is deemed necessary as it repeats over 10-15 times in the entire manuscript.

2 Answers 2


The first time the acronym is used, it should be fully written out*. For example:

The Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion (SPECTRE) organization features in a number of the James Bond films.

After that, it's perfectly acceptable to use it as the first word in a sentence:

SPECTRE is led by the notorious supervillian, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

As for whether or not it's acceptable in journal papers -- I'm currently in the middle of reading a paper from a top-tier computer science journal that frequently uses acronyms as the first word of the sentence:

"...for code isolation. CERE finds and extracts the hotspots of an application..." (1)

It's perfectly acceptable (at least in English) and encouraged, especially if it makes the paper easier to follow.

*As pointed out by NateEldredge and aeismail, there's an element of subtlety in this rule. If something is common knowledge in your field -- for example, most computer engineers know that "CPU" refers to "Central Processing Unit" -- you can choose to skip the acronym if you want. The same goes for well-known/standardized unit abbreviations (as your audience in a journal paper would likely know what those abbreviations mean).

  • 2
    "Write out on first use" is hardly a universal rule, though; it tends to be ignored if the acronym should be common knowledge. Or are you saying you write "Our computer has a 4.2 gigahertz (GHz) central processing unit (CPU) and 700 megabytes (MB) of random access memory (RAM)" in all your papers? Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 16:12
  • 5
    @NateEldredge: GHz and MB are units, not acronyms, and therefore do not need to be written out. As for the "true" acronyms and initialisms, the rule should be "expand if they're not in everyday use in your field."
    – aeismail
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 16:16
  • 2
    @NateEldredge: That's a good point that I didn't catch; I think aeismail nicely addressed the subtleties that I ignored. Though depending on the audience, I might still write out some of those acronyms (journal paper, probably not; post on the academic blog I'll someday get around to, perhaps). In my time as a grad student, I've discovered that common knowledge isn't always that common, even within a field.
    – tonysdg
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 16:54
  • I suspect some (maybe most) acronyms are more well known than their full version. What is a "Central Processing Unit"? Oh it is a CPU ... why didn't they just write CPU?
    – emory
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 18:51
  • 1
    @AlyAbdelaziz: The only thing I'll say is that ultimately, you should do whatever makes your paper more readable. Formal writing styles be damned -- the goal is to inform your readers. Everything else is secondary. That doesn't mean to ignore writing guidelines -- like the APA's -- which aim to support that goal. But they're just that -- guidelines, meant to be broken if necessary :)
    – tonysdg
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 19:05

In biomedical research you should always introduce an acronym in full at first use. Even if you add an accompanying acronym/abbreviation table, this rule still applies.

In addition, even if you have introduced an acronym earlier, you should not begin a sentence with the acronym.

These is a realistic example:

The management of coronary artery disease (CAD) has seen momentous improvements in the last decades. Specifically, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) and coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) appear to improve symptoms and prognosis of patients with CAD, at least in selected high-risk subjects. Coronary artery disease remains however an important cause of morbidity and mortality, giving the aging population...

Some journals enforce even stricter rules. For instance, this is an excerpt from the American Journal of Cardiology guidelines for manuscript preparation:

Abbreviations are permitted, but usually no more than 5 or 6 per manuscript (at the Editor's discretion), and then they must be used on every page of the manuscript after they are initially spelled out (followed by the abbreviation) in both abstract and introduction.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .