I'm teaching on online copy editing course (or, as the school calls it, a copyediting course). This week, students are learning about "acronyms."
I've long had an issue with this word. People use it interchangeably with "initialisms." But not all dictionaries support that.
Webster's New World College Dictionary, which is the designated resource in the newspaper copy editing work I do, says that an acronym is a set of initials pronounced as a word: radar, NASCAR. Initials that are pronounced as individual letters are not acronyms but initialisms: FBI, FAA, CIA.
BUT, Merriam-Webster, which is the designated dictionary for the Chicago Manual of Style, which is what we follow in the course, does allow using acronym to mean initialism, albeit reluctantly.
The author of the textbook for the copy editing course mentions this distinction in a footnote, but adds that it's common to call initialisms acronyms -- then she proceeds to do so throughout the chapter. I couldn't leave it alone. I informed students that, according to another widely used dictionary, this use of "acronym" is an error and that, even according to our dictionary, it's questionable.
I recommended that, as copy editors, they observe the distinction.
I have no doubt that the dictionaries will soon be changed to reflect real-world usage of the word "acronym." But, until they do, I think that people who aspire to careers as copy editors should take the more conservative approach. (Or at least be made fully aware of the controversy.)