The Sassy Scientist – #WriteProperly #NoMoreAcronyms

The Sassy Scientist – #WriteProperly #NoMoreAcronyms

Nerea cannot get enough of writing papers, reports and proposals. However, actually reading scribbles, especially those jotted down by (under)grad students, leaves her a histrionic gasp. She thus ejaculates:

LLSVP or LLVP or LL(S)VP – why must we prolong the acronym wars?

Aupa Nerea,

The Americans. No doubt. It has got to be them. Just like so many things, they’ve ruined that beloved English language. Not that I have a qualm that needs quashing. Don’t be fooled by speculations of the shortening of attention spans over the past few decades, nor by the advent of text/chat speak. I know, ROFLCOPTER. Acronym-fetishism started way before the digital era. I am sure you know that even the Greeks and Romans already had too little time to waste so that they created a need for these ratched constructions of language. Somewhat acceptable in case you need to finger-bleedingly chisel your message in granite for it to last. That four letter embroidery is also much quicker and easier completed. Nowadays we create so much new stuff using similar underlying programs, methods or concepts, both in the scientific and corporate realm, that we have persuaded ourselves we need to come up with a new acronym. Everything needs to be YABA-compatible. And we don’t need much convincing.

Unfortunately this reality is upon us as a society in general, yet academia has its own incentive for keeping up with the acronyms. It sure is much easier to comply with journal character/word restrictions in case you can condense a five-word, eighty nine-character concept into a single word of five characters? Especially when you mention it seventy-three times in your manuscript. I mean, aren’t papers read only by those fluent in jargon? Who cares the general public cannot jump aboard our train of thought? Not to mention not-that-overly-specialist-colleagues? Or those pitiful (under)grad students? For example, can you honestly state, with a straight face nonetheless, that you completely understand the following two sentences (as any and every self-respecting geodynamicist in fact should): “Far above the BEAMS, the MASH zone is cut by migrating STEPs leaving deformed lithosphere in its path along the edge of the LIP so that we can test the WLI by using the latest GRACE products. Further up the subduction zone, the plate interface is characterized by ETS, specifically by LFEs and SSEs, as observed through a joint interpretation of the ISC catalogue, GNSS data and DInSAR-processed MAI from Envisat.”

To conclude; is it really necessary to keep going all-in with the acronyms, or should we rather adopt a proper writing style and refrain from acronym redundancy? Surely we can deal with reading an additional couple of characters each time we go through 5000-25000 word papers. Moreover, in case we indeed choose to adopt a proper writing style, we can even find stylistic ways to avoid mentioning those horrid acronyms. We might even make sense to others, (non-)specialists in particular, and expand upon our little circle of knowledge gluttons. Who knows, it could very well lead to a proliferation in citations.

Lo saludo afectuosamente y con mil abrazos mentalmentos,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: This post was written whilst ALOL yet B4 PSML. BBFN.

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I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.


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