Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 54,
page(s) 61 Editorials
David R. Richardson, MD
An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase used to represent the whole for convenience or to improve comprehension. Example: LMFAO (if you don’t know who or what this stands for, ask your kids or check Google). Now this is what I call a good abbreviation. Not only do they perform good music (that’s a hint) but their name is tongue in cheek and makes you chuckle.
At the BCMJ the Editorial Board reviews manuscripts monthly for publication consideration. Over the years we have noticed the number of abbreviations has been increasing at an alarming rate. Now abbreviating a long title or using commonly accepted abbreviations makes sense, but some of the things being abbreviated lately are surprising.
LBP for low back pain I can accept, but is C-LBP for chronic low back pain really necessary? What about VAS for visual analog scale (apparently if you sever this scale you can’t have babies anymore)? Does spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) really need to be abbreviated? Is fitness so complicated that SE has to stand for structured exercise? When was the last time you referred to a radiation oncologist as an RO (personally, I like to call them the glow doctors)? Are health authorities really so funny as to justify HA? Isn’t a TRUS a device for hernias instead of a trans-rectal ultrasound? What about PST-PC? Doesn’t this sound like your computer has suffered some emotional upheaval instead of problem-solving therapy in primary care?
Here at the Journal we think BD stands for Brian Day, but apparently it stands for bipolar disorder.
So I am asking authors not only to stop, but to reverse this trend (RTT) in medical writing (MW) and write more clearly (WMC). A suggestion to RTT and WMC is to use pronouns and other nouns in reference to people, groups, tests, etc., in order to eliminate abbreviations (ABBR). I think most people (MP) when reading find that ABBR interrupt flow (IF) and interfere with reading comprehension (RC).
MP when faced with ABBR have to stop reading (SR) and review the previous paragraphs (RTPP) thereby refreshing their memories (RTM) so that they can facilitate their RC. MP would prefer not having to SR and IF to RTPP and wouldn’t mind fewer ABBR and would actually prefer to read the original words (OW) again. Otherwise the text (T) gets quite messy (QM) and basically not enjoyable to read (ETR).
So let’s RTT and WMC using the OW allowing readers to not have to SR, IF, RTM, and RTPP to improve RC. Let’s make MW more ETR for MP by eliminating unnecessary ABBR in the QM T.
—DRR (irony intended)