Are Cool Acronyms good or bad?

A riff on a common acronym. Courtesy of Nevit Dilmen via Wiki Commons.

A riff on a common acronym. Courtesy of Nevit Dilmen via Wiki Commons.

I read something for a friend the other day, and in the course of commenting, mentioned one of the factions in her story reminded me of NOHARMM, the National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Men.

Back when I worked at the Wichita Eagle (I was an intern), I did a story on the burgeoning anti-circumcision movement and spoke with people from NOHARMM. It is one of the most memorable acronyms I have run across.

And with that thought in mind, I thought it might be fun today to discuss fun acronyms and whether or not it’s a good idea to create them for fiction?

Acronyms that are memorable and or funny can be good in fiction, because you want your reader to remember.  But, they could backfire, if the acronym tone isn’t appropriate for the story. In my novel Life First,  two acronyms come up a lot. FoSS, Federation of Surviving States and LMS, life monitoring system.

Those are both fairly straightforward acronyms, and I didn’t try to do anything special with them. It didn’t make sense in the context of the story. The only acronym I wish I’d done something different with was HLFM. Yes. Horrible, now that I’m analyzing it. Stands for high-latency flexible material (yes, you say, it is possible for the name to be worse than the acronym).  This fictional fabric turns to dust if you try to stretch it too taut.  Part of me wishes I’d given it an acronym like DUST (durable undulating supple textile) or SORRY (stretching out reaps regrets, yelling).   But, given the context of where this reference occurred, I don’t think amusing would have been a good fit.

So, are there any acronyms you’ve made up for your writing that you really like? How about any real world acronyms that you love?

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at
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4 Responses to Are Cool Acronyms good or bad?

  1. I use acronyms all the time! It’s difficult to remember that not everyone will know or assume an acronym, so a writer should SPELL THEM OUT initially or refer to their proper name or phrase so all readers understand.

    • RJ Crayton says:

      Yes, good advice. AP style suggests using certain acronyms on first reference (like FBI), but I think it’s best to spell out, then refer. People who know gloss over it and those who don’t are terribly appreciative.

  2. RJ Crayton says:

    That’s great. I love AFTA. They’re afta you; no they’re afta me; wait, they’re afta everyone.

  3. Charles Ray says:

    In one of my Al Pennyback mysteries, I came up with Americans for a True America (AFTA) for a right wing militia group that hated just about everything. Wasn’t meant to be funny; more ironic.

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