May 4, 2010 at 11:48 am Leave a comment

EAAU? Yes, that’s Eliminate All Acronym Use. As soon as possible.

I have spent the last year getting to know a few industries new to me. As a communicator, I spend a lot of time asking what the initials mean. Many of the people I work with in these varied enterprises like to think theirs has the market cornered on acronyms. It simply arms me and my ARP – that’s Acronym Reduction Project!

The Death of Communication
The May issue of Inc. Magazine has an excellent article on the failures of business communication. Phrases like “full-service solutions provider” have certainly given marketing a bad name. But worse, I say, is the proliferation of acronyms only understood in narrow business segments, and even there more often misunderstood.

I sat in a meeting a few weeks ago where the presenter used so many acronyms even she – when questioned – couldn’t define them all. At that point, she should have simply left the room, not to return until she knew what she was saying. She continued, however, proving she was simply wasting our time and hers by “communicating” incoherently.

I can understand the use of acronyms in Twitter where a character limit demands brevity. But in a Powerpoint presentation? In a corporate newsletter? In regular e-mail communication? How much time or ink or pixels are you really saving? And at what cost?

Journalists know to spell out the words upon first reference, even if the reader might understand the acronym. When I’m writing for business, I make sure an acronym never sits on a page or screen without being defined at least once.

My Acronym Reduction Project will continue until I bring them near extinction. Then I will change the name to Acronym Elimination Project. I wasted a few minutes just now trying to come up with a better name where I could use a funny acronym … oh no, what am I doing?

Have you encountered mysterious and overused acronyms in business communication? Will you join me to stop their use?


Entry filed under: Communications, journalism, Social Media.

What Happened? Technology Envy (or Fear?)

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