On the correct use of acronyms: reflections on NSAIDs and ACEIs

Currently, the use of acronyms in medical texts is very frequent. However, despite the proliferation of their use (sometimes abuse), on many occasions

Currently, the use of acronyms in medical texts is very frequent. However, despite the proliferation of their use (sometimes abuse), on many occasions, they are used or written incorrectly. In this regard, we have observed that various authors repeatedly use wrong forms of some acronyms (especially NSAIDs and ACEIs) in articles published in this and other scientific journals.

In recent years, various works have been published in which the correct use of acronyms in Spanish has been widely discussed (1-5); The reason for this letter is to comment on two aspects in which we have observed inaccuracies with some frequency: not writing the transcription of the full name when an acronym is used for the first time and incorrectly forming the plural of acronyms.

An acronym, according to the Dictionary of the Spanish Language (6), is "a word formed by the set of initial letters of a complex expression". The word acronym designates both each of the initial letters of the words that are part of a denomination and the word formed by the set of these initial letters (7). The acronyms, in the latter case, are formed, in general, with the initials of names and adjectives of a title or denomination (as in the case of ACEI, "angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor"), although they may also intervene In their formation, letters that are not initials (as in the case of NSAIDs, "non-steroidal anti-inflammatory"), can be formed without involving all the significant terms, or letters of smaller particles can be used in their formation (1).You may also be interested in what does wtw mean in texting

When an acronym is used in a text, the first time it is mentioned the full name must be transcribed, followed by the corresponding acronym in parentheses. In later allusions, only the acronym is enough and it is not necessary to develop it again (2,3). In the title and in the abstract it is better not to use acronyms but, if they are used, they should also be explained; This explanation does not exempt from the obligation to develop them the first time they appear in the text.

Before addressing the plural of acronyms, it is worth remembering other interesting aspects as well. The Royal Spanish Academy (7) clearly indicates that acronyms, in current use, are written without dots or separating blanks (only a dot is written after the letters that make up the acronyms when they are integrated into texts written completely in capital letters), they present Normally, all the letters that compose them are capitalized, never have an accent (although their pronunciation requires it according to the rules of accentuation) and they should never be divided by means of a hyphen at the end of the line.

Some acronyms can be acronyms. An acronym is, on the one hand, the term formed by the union of elements of two or more words, normally constituted by the beginning of the first and the end of the second or, also, by other combinations (for example, Insert, de National Institute of Social Services) and on the other, it is also called an acronym to the acronym that is pronounced as a word. Due to their pronounced form, it is very common that acronyms, after a first phase in which they appear in capital letters due to their status as acronyms (UCI, AIDS), end up being incorporated into the common lexicon of the language and are therefore written with lowercase letters (UCI, sida), except for names or denominations that require writing with a capital initial (Unesco, Unicef). The formation of acronyms and acronyms is a very widespread phenomenon in Anglo-Saxon countries, especially in scientific-technical fields. Many words that are originally English acronyms or acronyms (laser, radar, telex) have been incorporated into our language. In some cases, foreign acronyms have been adapted or translated into Spanish, and thus, we do not say aids (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome ), but AIDS ( acquired immunodeficiency syndrome ). When acronyms are incorporated into the lexical flow of the language as common names, then they must be subject to the rules of graphic accentuation in Spanish (laser) (7).

Acronyms, like acronyms, and unlike abbreviations (reduced graphic representation of a word or group of words, obtained by eliminating some of the final or central letters or syllables of their complete writing, and that is always closed with one point) and symbols (scientific-technical abbreviations, made up of letters or, sometimes, non-literate signs, which, in general, are conventionally set by standardization institutions and have international validity) are read without reestablishing the text they replace. Acronyms and acronyms, therefore, are not only graphic abbreviations, but also oral ones. One of the most frequently observed errors in the use of acronyms in medical texts arises when they are used in the plural. In Spanish,In writing, the plural of acronyms is invariable (7), that is, they do not change their form when they designate a multiple referent (acronyms do not admit plural by inflection, that is, adding an -s to the singular form). Therefore, acronyms, as such, do not have a plural, although they may be a reflection of a plural statement (1); in this case, the indication of plurality is made through the article that precedes them or the words that introduce them (NSAIDs, various ACE inhibitors,).

A separate case is constituted by those acronyms, few, which, without admitting -as all- plural by inflection, can contain it in its own structure of meaning; in this case, they duplicate each of the initial letters (this is the case, for example, of the United States, an acronym for the United States) (4,5). So, it is completely wrong to talk about NSAIDs, NSAIDs, NSAIDs,ACEIs or ACEIs, since, as has been said, the plural should not be made by adding an s, preceded or not by an apostrophe, in a similar way to what is done, correctly, in English (for example, NSAIDs - an acronym for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) (8). It must be taken into account, however, that acronyms, once incorporated into the common lexicon, form the plural following the general rules of their formation in Spanish, that is, adding -s if they end in a vowel (ucis) or -es if they end in a consonant (lasers, radars) (7).once incorporated into the common lexicon, they form the plural following the general rules of their formation in Spanish, that is, adding -s if they end in a vowel (us) or -es if they end in a consonant (lasers, radars) (7).once incorporated into the common lexicon, they form the plural following the general rules of their formation in Spanish, that is, adding -s if they end in a vowel (us) or -es if they end in a consonant (lasers, radars) (7).

NSAIDs and ACEIs are just examples of drug nomenclature affected by incorrect pluralization. We could add SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), ARAs (angiotensin receptor antagonists), LAs (local anesthetics), MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), PPIs (proton pump inhibitors), and PG (prostaglandins), as well as acronyms widely used in other areas: the EAP (primary care teams) and ABS (basic health areas), so frequent in family and community medicine texts, serve as an example.