There is a trend I see brewing in the business world which has become irritating, if not downright confusing. As an editor for the past few months I had an opportunity to nip this annoying habit in the bud, but I failed miserably. Like a tick, acronyms seem to have burrowed in and won’t budge without more radical action than I could provide.
The thing that grieves and peeves me to distraction is the excessive use of a acronyms and initials in newspaper reports, government mandates and corporate communications – to the point the reader glazes over and has no idea or interest in what message the writer is trying to convey.
Here’s an example which appeared in an alert which came across my desk yesterday: “Specialists might find this opinion more accessible if we explain that it concerns a NEPA challenge to a ROD of the BLM concluding that a FEIS adequately evaluated CBM development under the Powder River Resource Area RMP. The district court held the FEiS inadequate and partially enjoined approval of APDs until BLM completed a SEIS.”
Huh? Say what? See what I mean? This sort of alphabet soup stinko-babble conveys no message whatsoever except perhaps to the person who wrote it. LOL. And that’s another one that is way over-used. LOL (laughing out loud) is just plain dishonest. How many times have you laughed out loud at some benign text or email you received. See? I thought so.- using LOL is simple deception in most cases.
And worse yet, not everyone got the memo to use LOL when moderately amused. My friend, Bud. got a note from a family member informing him of a death in the family.. He responded with a hearty LOL which he thought meant “Lots of Love.”
I chalk up a lot of this lazy self- important acronym usage to a new generation which was raised on text messaging where you don’t have enough space to type much more than FOWTOSF (“figure out what this one stands for”).
This habit is especially abused by government agencies and big corporations where I suspect confusion is the intended result. As long as they can keep us in the dark, we won’t get out of line and figure out the hidden agenda..
There is a time and place for everything and using initialisms and acronyms is no exception. The whole point of using these forms of abbreviations is to avoid the repetitive use of often meaningless jargon. However, if you misuse or abuse initialisms and/or acronyms, you’ll accomplish just the opposite, turning your memos and manuals into a confusing brew. I have enough trouble remembering what BYOB and PMS mean.
And ETA – now there’s one that tripped me up recently. I was planning a visit with a friend on the Gulf Coast, and she sent me an email a day or so before my arrival asking for my ETA. As far as I know I do not own an ETA nor have I ever seen one. What could that be, I puzzled? Exotic tacky Aardvark? Excessive toad abuse? What??
It seems to me the abuse of acronyms represents some secret “insider” group language meant to exclude average people and keep us in our happy ignorance.
Admittedly I tend to get bent out of shape over non issues that don’t matter all that much. But please folks, lets try to limit acronym usage to things everyone understands like BLT and BYOB! And please, let’s return to writing and talking like professionals with real grown up words. In the meantime, BBFN (bye, bye, for now.) I’m off to have some buttons printed up with TMA – too many acronyms!