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I'm wondering whether I can use acronyms without the period between each letter in fiction writing. Adding the period seems kind of clunky and stops the flow of the sentence a little but I don't want to remove it if it's a mistake to.

E.g. would the following be acceptable in fiction:

  1. "I'll be there ASAP."

    Is this ok or does it have to be "A.S.A.P."? I'm guessing doing it lower case, asap, is not an option.

  2. Similarly to the example above, I guess the answer will also apply to:

    • I'm going to meet my mother-in-law, AKA the witch of Orange County.

    • You need to get an STD test before I go near you again.

  3. How about WASP-y?/WASPY? I have an urge to reference "WASP-y" wives. Is it ok to write it "WASP-y"? Is there a better way such as "WASPY"? I can't find it in the dictionary and am debating whether to use it but it fits my sentence perfectly. I'm guessing "waspy" is a no-no.

Maybe some of these things are preferences rather than hard rules?

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In fiction, you can do anything you like, so long as you do it consistently.

In general, though, ASAP is written without any periods, as is STD. ASAP is trite, don't use it.

The only way to abbreviate "also known as" is "a.k.a." Anything that's NOT capitalized should have periods.

"WASPy" is correct, although why you'd use it is beyond me. It's been overdone.

Still, as I may have mentioned earlier, in fiction you can do anything you like, just be consistent. If you write "wAsPy," make sure you don't change it to "WASpY" three pages later.

  • Thanks Ricky, just so that I fully understand, why is "ASAP" capitalized and not "a.k.a."? Is it just a common usage thing? – MoniqueH Nov 7 '15 at 22:02
  • Seems to be. I honestly don't know why. MAYBE because "a.k.a." is a legitimate acronym, while ASAP is a pseudo-colloquial platitude? I don't know. Matter of fact, I'm kind of suspicious of all acronyms in fiction writing. They stick out like sore thumbs, creating unnecessary bumps in the natural flow of the narrative and dialogue. "Bird language" is a phrase that comes to mind (my mind, at least) when I encounter one. Apart from that, I'm firmly convinced that fiction is an aural genre (to be read aloud), and "in these United States" sounds a lot better than "in the U.S." – Ricky Nov 7 '15 at 22:12
  • Oh, and as for your previous (migrated) question, why not introduce a little humor into the narrative and write "atrium" instead of "living room." – Ricky Nov 7 '15 at 22:16
  • @Ricky because "Atrium" and "Living Room" are not architecturally interchangeable. You can build an atrium and declare it's your living room, but an ordinary living room isn't necessarily an atrium. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Nov 8 '15 at 11:38
  • @LaurenIpsum: Absolutely. Which makes it all the more comical. Nothing wrong with a little humor here and there. – Ricky Nov 8 '15 at 19:06
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Many acronyms can be found in Webster's or Oxford dictionaries. Start with your dictionary. If the acronym is a company or organization, it is typically capitals without punctuation. Lower case s after capitals or numbers don't require apostrophes. AP style guide recommends not using hyphens with acronyms in narrative or dialogue. Chicago has nothing to say on the matter.

  • Thanks Stu. I'll look again. I want to use them because sometimes you would say them rather than the full expression e.g. a.k.a. or STD. I'll try my dictionaries. Thanks. – MoniqueH Nov 8 '15 at 5:40
  • Oh, and for WASPy, how about bratty or other adjectives, with or without adverbs, that are more descriptive of the mental state or behavioral pattern that you are trying to convey. – Stu W Nov 8 '15 at 10:19
  • "Chicago has nothing to say on the matter" - actually it has: "Chicago generally prefers the all-capital form, unless the term is listed otherwise in Webster's" (Chicago Manual of style, 10.6) – FraEnrico Feb 28 '18 at 15:23
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There is a distinction between an Acronym and an Initialism. Acronyms tend to have no periods and be pronounced as a single word (SCUBA, LASER). Initialisms may or may not have periods, but each letter is pronounced separately (I.R.S., I.B.M., AT & T).

So WASP and ASAP are acronyns. AKA and STD are initialisms.

How do you know which is which? Consult a dictionary to see what the pronunciation is and to see if it includes periods or not. Consult more than one dictionary to see if the usage is firmly established, or if it varies by source.

See http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2012/05/the-difference-between-an-acronym-and-an-initialism/

Finally, keep in mind that some company names that started out as abbreviations (AT & T for American Telegraph and Telephone) were later incorporated as the formal name of the company. For example, AT & T is no longer the abbreviation for American Telegraph and Telephone. The formal, legal name of the company is "AT & T." So for names of organizations, you'll need to see how the organization itself presents its name.

  • Thanks very much. Can initialisms be used with small letters. E.g. a.k.a.? – MoniqueH Nov 11 '15 at 3:24
  • Some initialisms do contain small letters, for example DoD (Department of Defense), a.m.u. (atomic mass unit), www (world wide web), Ph.D., and tRNA (transfer RNA). I have seen the initialisms for also-known-as and as-soon-as-possible in versions with both capital and lower case letters. ASAP and asap are both listed in my American Heritage Dictionary, although I'm surprised to see that it only lists aka (and a.k.a). I have definitely seen AKA. – Syntax Junkie Nov 11 '15 at 17:37
  • I'm not finding a good web reference, but acronyms tend to start off using all caps and periods, but as time goes on and people get use to them, they lose the periods and even lose the all caps. For example, my earlier examples are out of date. I don't of anyone that spells scuba or laser in all caps any more. – Syntax Junkie Nov 13 '15 at 14:19

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