Acronyms can be confusing at the best of times - see Why is HIV singled out from other STIs? yet, the field of medical science is full of them — *EHRs, PMHs, ADRs...just give a few.

The tour page states that this site is

for professionals in medical and allied health fields, students of those professions, related academics, and others with a sound understanding of medicine and healthcare-related sciences.

yet, those who are students may still be learning the acronyms and therefore would it not be beneficial to have the acronyms defined?

I cannot remember the question, but a while ago, I commented on an answer which was loaded with acronyms with no definitions, and I am wondering what the general opinion is on use of acronyms in this way?

* For the benefit of those who don't know, the following are the definitions of acronyms used in my question

  • EHR = Electronic Health Record
  • PMH = Past Medical History
  • ADR = Adverse Drug Reaction
  • 2
    Well, for starters there is always google. But I get your point, in general it would be nicer to introduce the acronym once (Electronic Health Record [EHR]) and then continue to use it
    – Narusan
    Sep 24, 2018 at 15:39
  • 3
    Yeah. Then this is an international audience. Sometimes there is confusion of what ASS or ASA might mean, @Narusan. ;) –– If the above comment was an answer that differentiated between mg/HIV and PMH/EHR it would have an upvote now already. Sep 24, 2018 at 18:21
  • 4
    I think LangLangC's point about the international audience here is a great motivating reason to define all but the most common acronyms (we can probably skip EKG and HIV, especially because I can never remember the exact German word that gives EKG except the kardio part). Acronyms often don't survive translation even for someone with native language skills if their professional training is in another language.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Sep 24, 2018 at 20:28
  • @Narusan Yeah, I am aware, it's the same in English just not being a German speaker means I'd have to double check the spelling. I was being a bit facetious though.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Sep 25, 2018 at 21:31
  • 3
    I am okay with writing it out as below in JohnP's answer - since this site is both international and inter-disciplinary that entirely makes sense. The answer you referred to was this question, and I edited it to write out what the acronyms mean. medicalsciences.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/958/…
    – DoctorWhom
    Sep 25, 2018 at 21:48
  • @DoctorWhom - Thanks for the reminder. Yes that was the one. I wasn't seeking to single you out with this question here though. Sep 25, 2018 at 22:09
  • No worries, I didn't think you were. It's a valid question.
    – DoctorWhom
    Sep 25, 2018 at 22:10

1 Answer 1


The general format is to state the acronym in full, followed by the acronym in parentheses, and then just use the acronym after that. Such as the following:

The sexually transmitted infection (STI) is due to penetration of the mucosal lining by the virus. This particular STI...

And so on.

  • I concur for really most acronyms. Those are a service for the writer and a disservice for the reader in the general case. But I think for really widespread acronyms like SI units (mg) that would be overkill. Shouldn't we differentiate that a bit more? Sep 25, 2018 at 17:29
  • 3
    @LangLangC that is a unit measurement not a medical term. Not every acronym needs to be spelled out explicitly. :)
    – JohnP
    Sep 25, 2018 at 20:27
  • @LangLangC - What do you mean by "a service for the writer and a disservice for the reader"? Sep 25, 2018 at 21:42
  • @ChrisRogers One writer saves time on typing, countless readers spend time on an additional decoding round, or worse, have to look it up. Sep 25, 2018 at 23:25
  • 1
    @LangLangC - ah I see what you are saying now :) Sep 25, 2018 at 23:25

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