October 24, 2017

Avoid alphabet soup

7 ways to get the acronyms and abbreviations out

Seattle investigator J.P. Beaumont, a character in J.A. Jance’s Partner in Crime, tells this story:

How to handle acronyms

Use these carefully Acronyms and abbreviations may save a few words, but they also frustrate readers, who must take more time and effort to understand the message. Image by rawpixel.com

“The world we live in is made up of shortcuts and acronyms — the Seattle PD, the U.S. of A., the U Dub, et cetera. The AG’s (see what I mean?) Special Homicide Investigation Team had barely opened its doors for business when people started shortening the name to something a little more manageable. And that’s where the SHIT hit the fan, so to speak. While everyone agrees the name is ‘regrettable’ and ‘unfortunate,’ no one in the state bureaucracy is willing to take the heat for rescinding that previously placed order for preprinted stationery, forms and business cards. So SHIT it was, and SHIT it remains.”

The idea that an organizational program might be named after excrement hardly screams fiction. One of my clients swears that someone in her shop named a company program only to change the appellation when the acronym turned out to spell FECES.

The problems with acronyms

Acronyms appear to speed communication. After all, if you can boil a multisyllabic pileup of words down into a handful of letters, that moves information faster, right?

Get the acronyms out

Related stories

“NNCBTPSNBRTASTSAFW.” *
* “Names not commonly before the public should not be reduced to acronyms solely to save a few words.”
— AP Stylebook

Start Making Sense

Get the gobbledygook, jargon & gibberish out

Jargon. Buzzwords. Acronyms. They’re things that make your reader go “huh?” And we need to get them out of our message.

Start Making Sense

Don’t make your readers’ heads spin Translate the language of your organization into the language of your readers. Image by Lacie Slezak

Indeed, jargon irritates your reader, makes your message less understandable, reduces your social media reach and influence, cuts your chances of media coverage, makes your website harder to find and demonstrates your lack of knowledge about the topic.

It may even suggest that your company is in trouble.

At Cut Through the Clutter — our two-day concise-writing master class on Aug. 17-18 in San Francisco — you’ll learn how to avoid these obstacles by translating the language of your organization into the language of your readers.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Determine when to use jargon to streamline communication — and when to avoid it at all costs.
  • Run a simple test to decide which terms to use with industry insiders.
  • Turn Google into the best thesaurus ever.
  • Define terms the reader-friendly way (Hint: It’s not the way we learned to do it in Journalism 101.)
  • Steal techniques from Warren Buffett to make complex technical information easier to understand — and more fun to read.

Last call to register for our Cut Through the Clutter workshop in San Francisco. This is the last chance to learn concise-writing from Ann in 2017. Don’t miss out. Register now.

Save up to $100 each with our group discounts.

“One of the best career experiences I’ve had.”
– Scott Worden, manager, corporate communications & PR, Magna International

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Miami | Dec. 11-12

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  • Johnson, RI: Aug. 7-11
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  • New York: Sept. 25-26
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  • Portland: July 27-28
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Keep up with my calendar.

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