I am writing a paper about a super machine (SM). In the introduction section I am briefly introducing the concept and also the acronym. Then, later in the text, I have a full section which explains SM in detail.

Should I spell out SM in this section's title or write it out? It seems strange if the title of the section is just "SM" instead of "Super machine". Further, given the importance of this section for the whole puplication, should I re-introduce the acronym SM the first time in this section, even though the acronym has already been introduced in the introduction?

Thank you!

  • Minor point. SM isn't an acronym, it's an initialism.
    – Chenmunka
    Apr 4, 2020 at 17:34
  • One suggestion: If I'm reading your table of contents to get an idea of the outline of your paper, would I be able to understand it on its own? Apr 4, 2020 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


The short answer is yes.

Your job as an author is to help the reader. Acroynyms are useful but they can confuse the reader. Thus, the practice I follow is to use the full name for Three Letter Acronym (or TLA) and then use TLA thereafter.

However, if you have not used that acronym recently (and only you can decide what recently is), the polite thing is to repeat the process. You might say, we are using TLA (or Three Letter Acronym) to tighten up the writing. That way, you are signalling the reader that you are referring to something that they have already seen.

Finally, a section that focuses on the topic referenced by the acronym should definitely have both the full and shortened identifiers. I would think that the title should contain both identifiers. The identifier with the most usage should probably come first but style requirements may dictate otherwise.

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