We live in a society that has evolved into a culture of getting things done at an ultra-fast pace. Even in something as simple as a conversation, we search for ways to save time. Consequently, the use of acronyms to abbreviate titles or phrases has become increasingly popular in business, social media and our everyday conversations.

Although acronyms can be very useful, they are only appropriate when the people you’re addressing recognize and understand what the abbreviation stands for. To assume they do is not only impolite, but can make the conversation confusing and distract from the discussion.

Think about it: If you use an acronym that is unfamiliar to your addressees, they are forced to make a choice of interrupting the conversation for an explanation, making an assumption about its meaning, ignoring it, or making a mental note to look it up later.

A good rule to ensure the meaning of your acronym is communicated is to precede an acronym with its expanded name (e.g., “Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA”) the first time it’s used in conversation or a letter.

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If you use an acronym that is unfamiliar to your addressees, they are forced to make a choice of interrupting the conversation for an explanation, making an assumption about its meaning or ignoring it.

The short time it takes to convey the meaning of an acronym when first used becomes insignificant compared to the problems and annoyance created when the meaning is not understood by the recipient.

A rule is already on the books against addressing people in a language they do not understand. It applies especially to tourists in foreign lands who believe that an increase in volume compensates for an absence of vocabulary.

YOU WILL ALSO ENJOY: Acronyms & Ampersands by Paul Kudray

But when thinking about using acronyms at your workplace, there it is up to you to learn terms in common use. If you have moved to Washington, you should resign yourself that governmentese is the local language.

Source: Times Union

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1 Comment »

  1. This article and Paul Kudray’s posting are excellent reminders to those in any profession or type of business of the danger of overuse of acronyms. We all seem to be proud card-carrying members of the NOAA (National Organization for the Advancement of Acronyms.). In business continuity, we may forget when talking with those not directly involved in business continuity management that they do not speak “continuity-ese” nor understand the myriad of terms and acronyms that we use on a daily basis. Be sure to spell out and define all acronyms to avoid a disconnect.

    Liked by 2 people

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