Beware of the Acronym

I am not totally against the use of Acronymns, and I understand that in our fastpaced lives sometimes they’re really useful. For instance – no one is going to use the term Compact Disc when CD is the widely accepted shorthand. But something has happened in our business culture; some companies and industries have gone our of their way to create Acronyms where not only are they unnecessary, they confuse the listener. For example:

1. LOL: The internet has caused a rapid increase in the overuse of acronyms because, let’s face it, typing on a phone pad is a pain. Please, stop using this one – perhaps the most overused of all Acronyms.
2. PADI – Professional Association of Diving Instructors – no one will know your acronym if they don’t even know you exist.
3. NIMBY – Not In My Backyard – Seriously?
4. TIA – Thanks In Advance – If you can’t take the time to write out ‘Thank You in Advance’ you shouldn’t be asking for the favor.
5. ASAP – As Soon As Possible – Be careful using this one in business communications because it comes across as command rather than a request. No one that isn’t in the military likes to be given orders.
6. OOO – Out of Office. Huh?
7. EOD – End of Day. Do we really need this??
8. UPnP – Universal Plug & Play – they must not have worked too hard on this one.
9. S.H.A.G. – Senior Housing Assistance Group – do you see where careless use of acronyms could be a problem?
10. D.P. – Designer Portfolio: this one courtesy of my old company and is an abbreviation rather than an acronym; the entire design industry knows them as Architect Folders and sales reps. had to constantly explain what they were to customers.

I’m not for outlawing all acronyms; if they make communication easier and MOST PEOPLE understand them I say go for it. For instance SCUBA, HGTV and ATM are all widely understood acronyms that make life simpler.

In business, especially if it’s highly specialized, is where most people get into trouble. I constantly caution clients to stop using acronyms if I don’t understand them the first time I encounter them. A good rule of thumb is that if you have to train your clients and new employees as to what they stand for – ditch them. Just because the people in your company understand your acronyms doesn’t mean you should use them. It’s difficult enough explaining what you do in 30 seconds or less – jumbling that speech with acronyms the listener doesn’t understand puts you in danger of losing them permanently.

If you do encounter acronyms you are clueless about, try to clear it up. If your clients need to use this service to understand what you or your website are saying, my guess is they won’t bother.