Related: Using acronyms in tags

Aviation is full of acronyms and abbreviations, some are quite common and therefore understood by most people(eg, ATC). Others are more specialised, and will probably not be understood by people outside of certain areas of aviation (eg, FAF).

What do we think should be this site's stance on the use of acronyms/abbreviations in answers? (Question prompted by this answer which used the acronym FAF which was clearly not understood by everyone - including me).


Acronyms are part of any field, and anyone interested in learning about the field should also start learning the language. To help with that learning, I think explaining acronyms is generally a good idea. Even in technical papers they generally define them the first time they are mentioned and include an acronym section.

If the question is clearly a more technical question, especially with a more technical answer, not defining acronyms may be more acceptable. You might be able to assume anyone interested understands enough to either know the terms or know where to find out.

For less technical questions, it's more important to include explanations for acronyms. Define them when first mentioned, and/or include a list with definitions. As long as they are explained they should be fine for any reader to understand or at least do further research.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with this, and definately target my audience when writing an answer. For less technical answers I avoid many acronyms or spell them out when they aren't obvious (i.e. I don't expand FAA or GPS). For more technical questions, where without some knowledge in the field even the question probably won't even make sense to the reader, I don't "dumb it down" so that a beginner will understand. We need aviation experts here in order to really make this site shine, and we won't attract very many if they see answers that spell out even basic things on every answer. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger May 20 '14 at 4:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For instance, if you were to try to answer How to start deriving longitudinal equations of motion for an aircraft? or How to go about designing a custom airfoil in a manner that a person not versed in aviation design would understand, the answer would be four times as long and I doubt that anybody actually looking for the answer to the question would stick around to read it. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger May 20 '14 at 4:27

Either expand every acronym on its first use, or link the acronym to a definition from elsewhere (a page on our blog, Wikipedia, etc.)


If it's a particularly unusual acronym, I might be inclined to add an inline tag, for example:

Such and such blahdy blah.

Hovering on the tag displays the expanded acronym*. Don't forget you can always edit the tag wiki if it doesn't have a good description.

* Doesn't work on Meta

  • $\begingroup$ Where is a description of how to do an inline tag? $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell May 21 '14 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell Like this: [tag:fams]. $\endgroup$ – user1535629 May 22 '14 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell You can always click Edit on my answer (or any post) to see its Markdown code :) $\endgroup$ – Danny Beckett May 22 '14 at 8:42

My belief is that this site has a cross-section of users from interested through to expert. As such, we should strive for clarity to avoid alienating users who may not be as aviation-savvy.

I think we should generally avoid all acronyms/abbreviations in questions and answers.

Acronyms/abbreviations should be edited and expanded with impunity.

  • $\begingroup$ when the term is used often in the answer one should first write it out in full and follow it with the abbreviation is brackets behind it like Air Traffic Control (ATC). This way it is clear what is meant. $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak May 19 '14 at 12:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Someone who does not know the acronym FAF is unlikely to know what the Final Approach Fix is either.... $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger May 19 '14 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger - True, but searching google for Final Approach Fix is easier than searching for FAF! The former leads directly to the definition, the latter brings up all kinds of unrelated things $\endgroup$ – Jamiec May 19 '14 at 12:39
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Honestly, acronyms are so prevalent in aviation that if you expanded every one it would actually make it harder to read, especially when talking about instrument procedure. Expanding VOR, NDB, GPS, etc. would seem to add very little value, and if someone has a question about one all they have to do is ask in a comment. Or see if there is a tag by that name. Or look at the pilot controller glossary. Or do a Google search for "aviation FAF". $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger May 19 '14 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger - Perhaps a glossary of acronyms on meta then. $\endgroup$ – Jamiec May 19 '14 at 12:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Or a link to a site like this in a faq? faa.gov/jobs/abbreviations $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger May 19 '14 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ I think that's a great idea! $\endgroup$ – Jamiec May 19 '14 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ Or even better, the actual Pilot Controller Glossary. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger May 20 '14 at 4:31
  • $\begingroup$ What would we think about a question like "What is the FAF (Final Approach Fix)? $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell May 20 '14 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell Sounds like a perfectly valid question to me. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger May 21 '14 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ I'll add that I know and understand 95% of the acronym's used in aviation. I didn't know FAF, which was why I asked the original question prompting this one. I agree with @Lnafziger that it might be problematic if we expanded all, even on first use. But, consider this. What is our purpose? Big picture. Ask a question, and if the community agrees it's a valid one (by not flagging, d/v'ing, etc) then it gets (hopefully) answers. But do we want a bunch of short one line answers? or do we want true enlightenment? $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell May 21 '14 at 21:34
  • $\begingroup$ What I mean bu my other big comment here, is ... a one paragraph answer laden with acronyms might be the cat's meow of an answer. But, if someone added (hopefully the author, but not even necessarily) a short list of acronym, to the answer (like I did in my starter valve stuck answer)(don't know if we can link in comments) then that cat's meow might just become potentially one of THE best answers ever on the subject. ( I am NOT suggesting that status for my aforementioned answer. ) :p $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell May 21 '14 at 21:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .