- Four Minute University
- Stop using acronyms
Stop using acronyms
What we think are communication shortcuts are often the opposite
What’s wrong with this sentence?
ICYMI, it’s BAU for a FTE to send a SOW from the RFP to a B2B client by EOD.
It’s full of acronyms.
Ask yourself: How sure am I that the reader knows what each term means?
A love-hate relationship
Acronyms are formed with the first letters of a series of words.
We use them all the time.
Do you use For Your Information or FYI? Probably FYI.
And that’s ok. Why?
Because we can assume people know what FYI stands for.
People have used it for decades at home and work.
It’s part of our language.
The real problem starts when we think people know every acronym we do.
The biggest issue happens at work.
We start using language that many others don’t know.
Around 10 years ago, I started a new job.
Like at any new company, I had to learn about the industry and business practices.
One thing stood out to me when going through my emails and internal websites.
Acronyms were used everywhere.
And I had no idea what 80% of them meant.
How would I figure out their meanings?
Could I ask someone? Sure. But I paused before reaching out to anyone.
I didn’t want to seem incompetent.
So I kept quiet and tried to figure it out myself.
Sadly, this happens all too often.
The problem with acronyms
Most acronyms are made up and have no actual value.
Especially ones in the workplace.
How many times do you have to mentally translate an acronym or pause to think what an acronym means?
One time is too many.
Back to the story: I got so frustrated about my personal experience with acronyms.
I found all of the acronyms in use at work.
I created a simple website using a Google-like autocomplete feature.
Type the acronym in the search box and you can see what it stands for.
An acronym finder I built years ago
This only treated the symptoms, not the actual problem.
9 different meanings of an acronym. 4,500+ acronyms in use. The longest acronym is 7 letters long.
A simple website isn’t solving the problem.
We need to use acronyms less.
When to use acronyms
Are acronyms bad? No.
They’re useful in many situations, esp in casual conversation.
I use them all the time when messaging people.
LOL. IDK. BRB. OMW. LMK. NVM. And so on.
Use acronyms when it’s:
Chat or text messaging
100% certain people know the acronym
When to avoid acronyms
Don’t use acronyms in:
Should you avoid using acronyms at work altogether?
No. That’s impractical.
One actionable tip
Do this the next time you’re sending a work note with an acronym in it:
Define the acronym the first time you use it.
Abbreviate it afterwards.
For example, if I’m sending a note to an internal business group about adding the Four Minute University to their LMS, I would say:
“Please add the Four Minute University to your learning management system (LMS)”
I can then use LMS any other time I mention a learning management system in that note.
This way, you’re educating people on what the term means and you get your message across clearly the first time.
TFR, SYNW (Thanks for reading, See you next week)