Less Acronyms Please

My opinion on the use of acronyms is that they should be avoided unless they are essential.

Some acronyms convey more meaning than their non abbreviated format and should be used: IBM, NASA, AIDS and HTML are good examples. They are widely understood and using them advances the communication.

Other acronyms are industry specific and are not widely known outside of that context. In this category there some acronyms are very common and others are not so well known. In the IT industry for example, the following are commonly used but not everyone (including IT folks) may know what they are: CRM, ERP, MDM, SOA, BI, RUP, SOAP, BPA, I&O, GAC, etc.

These acronyms will add value in many cases, but it’s important to make them explicit by writing them in full as well. This will also reduce acronym ambiguity, as even within a single industry there are different meanings for the same acronym. Ask a software developer what GC is s/he will tell you that it’s the Garbage Collector but ask an infrastructure specialist and s/he will say GC stands most definitely for the Global Catalog.

UX – user experience
IA – internet architect
ID – interactive designer
WS – work sharing
IW – information worker

On a category on their own are the company specific and made up on the fly acronyms, like some of the ones listed above. With rare exceptions these should be strongly avoided as they create jargon that doesn’t help companies communicate with their clients nor internally.

The way by which a group of people decide to communicative amongst themselves and with others says a lot about their culture. I believe that the abuse of acronyms promotes a culture that is opaque and closed – where openness and clarity are not at the forefront.


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