We have encountered this twice in recent weeks -- either a straight-up error, or the result of auto-correct undermining the writer's meaning: the acronym AIDS rendered as "Aids."
One instance was in looking over a fundraising piece, the other when reviewing a medical information form from a dentist's office. All of the healthcare fields, and a few of the charitable/non-profit ones, need to be on the lookout for this specific error.
Auto-correct saves us from a lot of mistakes...but opens up whole new possibilities for embarrassment. If there are acronyms that you use regularly in your line of work, make a Ctrl+F review of them part of your standard editing/revision process, in order to ensure that they are all properly capitalized.
When abbreviating a multi-word name, the capitals are retained, partly as a clue that the resulting "word" stands for something else. "AIDS" represents the the term "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome." Hence, must always be given in caps.
Both "HIV," the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (that causes AIDS) and "AIDS" are abbreviations. However, AIDS is also an acronym, as the abbreviation creates a name that is read as a word. The alternative would be to refer to AIDS by its individual letters, as the disease ay-eye-dee-ess.
Whether or not an abbreviation is used as an acronym is not always obvious. The initial letters of the World Health Organization (WHO) creates a readable word, but the agency does not go by "the WHO (hoo)," as it could create confusion with the band of the same name. Ergo, even though it could be an acronym, it isn't used as such.
So, CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), IRS (Internal Revenue Service), BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and IRA (Irish Republican Army) are abbreviations. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and IRA (Individual Retirement Account) are abbreviations that are also acronyms.
For vastly more on this topic, visit Wikipedia.
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