Treatment of acronyms in DL products

Apr 08, 2014

We are working on an extensive DL technical training product for the DoD.  As expected we have many acronyms to deal with.  We have two possible approaches, one is to put the acronym on the screen and highlight it as the narration spells it out.  The second is the reverse.  How do you typically handle that and what references do you have.

14 Replies
Ashley Chiasson

Is there any real value to highlighting the acronym as the narration spells it out? I foresee many instances of this occurring, which may be a little distracting.

In my work with DND, we encountered many, many, MANY acronyms, and the standard way of dealing with them within products was to spell them out the initial time per module, and then use the acronym throughout - For example, Department of National Defence (DND) and then throughout the remainder of the module, just using DND. I would also encourage use of the glossary; however, that being said - if what I suspect is a comparable amount of acronyms, you may end up with entire screens covered in glossary terms. 

It's also helpful to keep an internal spreadsheet of acronyms, so developers can reference if the documentation (client-provided) just includes the acronym and not the spelled out term.

Mark Parsons


Thanks, yes that is what I meant that the first time, the acronym is in a different color on the screen while the narrations spells it out.  I guess I am wondering if anyone puts the spelled out version on screen as well and then either says the acronym or the other way around.  Understood that after the first use you show and say the acronym only.  We are having a debate in the team regarding the standard.

Phil Mayor

Ashley Chiasson said:

In audio narration, I operate under the same standard as on-screen text (say it in full repeated by the acronym and then only narrate the acronym throughout the remainder). Not sure if that's what everyone else does though. I'm interested to see what transpires in this thread :P

Say it in full the first time and then use the acronym, add a glossary so they can look it up if they want it.  I wouldn't waste any time highlighting every occurrence

Mark Parsons

DL=distance learning, I use this because we are doing some CBT and some WBT.

Just for clarification, am not highlighting every time, just the first time.  So I get that we are saying "say it in full with the acronym the first time and then the acronym from that point forward" but if I also have a bulleted item on the screen that accompanies the narration do you typically but the full words and acronym on the screen as well or just the acronym?

Steve Flowers

For narration, make sure it's using the target audience's vernacular. If they would speak in acronym-eze, then follow suit. I've found a few instances of complication with acronyms both within and outside of DOD:

- Acronyms that are never spoken in short form (always spelled out)

- Acronyms that are spelled out A.R.C.S. versus ARCS. 

- Acronyms that are pronounced in a specific way (gotten bitten by this one a time or two)

Best to ask an accomplished performer how they would expect to hear it in narration.

Chris Perez

We do what was mentioned by someone above - spell it out the first time, describe its acronym, then use the acronym going forward.

One other possible way would be to just use acronyms throughout, but on its first mention in the course, make it a link that when hovered over, a pop-up displays the full term (so if the learner already knows it, they don't have to bother or sit through the full-length reading of an acronym every time).

Or include a glossary with an explanation of all acronyms used in the course.

DeLora Reardon

We had a training recently that had many acronyms and these were new employees, so there was concern that even after initial explanation, that the "alphabet soup" may confuse people. We made an acronym list for the portal page (using Articulate Glossary). It turned out to be one of the most visited items!