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Acronyms And Jargon: Four Questions To Ask Before Using Them


Career Kuel Category Expert: Gayle Petrillo

Acronyms and jargon. Both commonly referred to as alphabet soup, are only helpful if your audience knows what you are talking about.

“If you are writing in terms that your audience doesn’t understand, they will quickly lose interest.”

Using jargon, which is precise, and can be the hallmark of a professional in a specific discipline, has its purpose.  However, if definitions are not provided when used in a more generalized context, you will have lost your audience.

Additionally, some acronyms can alienate your customers. Likewise, some acronyms are too informal and using them may negatively affect the company you work for and represent. If you are writing in terms that your audience doesn’t understand, they will quickly lose interest. And, according to those knowledgeable in the SEO arena, the use of jargon in your online content can hurt your SEO because users will search for words and phrases that they are familiar with.

Utilize Acronyms:

Using acronyms also can cause confusion and ultimately the loss of your audience’s attention.

What is the best way to utilize acronyms? The best rule to follow is to write out the full name when first mentioned, placing the acronym in parenthesis. From that point on, it is perfectly acceptable to use the acronym.

Here Are Some Acronyms You May Be Familiar With (Or Not):

ASAP – As Soon As Possible
IMAX – Image Maximum
LASER – Light Amplification By The Stimulated Emission of Radiation
PIN – Personal Identification Number
AWOL – Absent Without (Official) Leave
BTW – By The Way
GOAT – Greatest of All Time
IMO – In My Opinion
OMG – Oh My God (Gosh)
IRL – In Real Life
TL;DR – Too long; Didn’t read
SMH – Shake (Smack) My Head
TBH – To Be Honest
LOL – Laugh(ing) Out Loud
HMU – Hit me up
FOMO – Fear of Missing Out
NGL – Not Gonna Lie
DM – Direct Message
AFK – Away From Keyboard
BAE – Before Anyone Else
HTH – Hope That Helps
TTYL – Talk to You Later

I’m sure you can add others. Please share!

“The key to good, and even better, great communication is to be clear, concise and simple.”

Overuse Of Acronyms:

In an Inc. newsletter, Jeff Steen encourages business executives to stop using acronyms. He says that from personal experience he has missed messaging and key concepts because of the overuse of acronyms. We have all been the recipient of cryptic messages with unknown acronyms as the target of cold call emails. What do you do with them? I, for one, trash them.

He adds, “While they are designed to balance clarity and efficiency, they often result in the exact opposite: frustrating confusion.”

The key to good, and even better, great communication is to be clear, concise, and simple. Because acronyms are understood by select members of a group, using them puts you at risk of turning prospects away because they don’t have the time or interest to decipher your message.

Four Questions To Ask Before Using An Acronym:

Steen offered four questions to ask before using an acronym:

1. Determine whether your entire audience will have an understanding of the definition.
2. Determine how confusing the message might be if you use it.
3. Think, do you know the meaning of the acronym.
4. And lastly, will using this acronym add to the efficiency of my message or negatively impact its comprehension?


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About the Author:

Gayle Petrillo is President of First Impressions, Image Consulting. Gayle is an image consultant working with both businesses and individuals. Her services include: customer service training; team building skills; secret shopper services; gossip avoidance techniques; closet analysis; wardrobe transformations, personal shopping; employment coaching; and presentation skills.