BBP:A&A (Ben’s Blog Post on Abbreviations and Acronyms)

Why is there a constant need for abbreviations in our business lives? I work at a highly technical company and abbreviations and acronyms are everywhere. Everywhere.

There’s a destination on our intranet where common abbreviations are listed. For O alone there are over 100 acronyms. There are three definitions listed for OOC.

We set our OOO when we go on PTO. And IMO we FYI, PSB far too often.

It’s obvious really. We want to abbreviate to save time and effort. If you’re feeling generous you could also add saving space to that list.

But what starts out as an exercise in brevity can actually be added time and energy. You have to explain that PTO means Paid Time Off. And here we use it as a synonym for holiday (or vacation). A day off.

The real danger of leaning heavily on abbreviations and acronyms is that your customer may not know what you’re talking about. You know that, for example, RDK simply means Reference Design Kit but they might not. (Yes, it’s from the acronym page).

If you’re lucky then you might have the chance to explain it to them. But people don’t like admitting that they don’t know something. So more likely they’ll go and find something that they do understand. Probably from somebody else.

So next time you’re writing some copy or even an email, think about the reader. Don’t make them do the work. And don’t leave them with a complex and confusing patchwork of TLAs. Sorry, that’s Three Letter Acronyms.

Do you know someone who is especially bad at this? Do you have a least favorite acronym? Share in the comments below.