In a story I'm writing some of my characters have retinal HUD's, a bit like those in the terminator movies. My question is simple: the first time I use it should I 'spell it out' as Head-Up-Display or head-up-display or head up display?
A prescriptive convention, recommended by Chicago and Hart's and most style manuals, is to spell out first instances and use intitial capitals. Then acronyms can be used alone afterwards. The first instance is also suggested to be followed by the acronym in an appositive phrase set off by a comma, signaling that the acronym will be used henceforth. Both head-up and heads-up are in conventional usage. Technical purists favor the former; readers stumble over it, preferring heads-up.
Also, prescriptively, head-up display is hyphenated.
Four targets appeared in the Head-Up Display, HUD.
A best practice makes the appositive acronym phrase into a clause, dependent or compound, restrictive or nonrestrictive, with additional detail.
Targets appeared on the Head-Up Display, or HUD as military types are wont to call the Hippo's instrument display.
Plural acronym: HUDs. Apostrophes with single letters alone used as a word is for plural case since they may be mistaken for words, like As, A's.
Optional capitalizations: Heads-up display. Head-Up Display. Head-up Display, depending on style and personal preference.
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