Acronyms seem really convenient, at first.
It’s great using ERP instead of enterprise resource planning, for example.
You save precious time (not typing enterprise resource planning a million times) and there’s no way your reader won’t understand what ERP means, right?
Well, for ERP this may be true, but all acronyms are not as tidy as they appear.
What about BPM, for example? Does it stand for business process management or business performance management or business process modeling?
Aha…the troubles begin.
And what if you want to talk about two different BPMs in one document? Business process management and business process modeling, for example.
Well, you can’t use the acronyms because you don’t want your readers getting lost and confusing the two BPMs.
So, you are forced to spell them out over and over and over again to avoid any misunderstandings no matter how cumbersome that may sound.
So why do we use acronyms anyway?
Well, they certainly can be tidy especially when it’s clear what you mean.
But they can also be redundantly repetitive as well.
For example, what about ISM Information Systems Management Corp. or SHL Systemhouse, Ltd.?
It does seem a bit much!
And then there’s RAM memory. Isn’t that saying ‘memory’ twice?
(RAM stands for random access memory.)
I’m all for using acronyms when they’re easy to understand. If they streamline a document, great!
But when acronyms cause confusion, they become not only irritating, but also defeat the purpose of why they were created in the first place.
Good article. Many years ago, at a Common convention, the use of acronyms in information processing documentation were covered. One should never assume and all acronyms used should be defined in the report or within an attached glossary. When I encounter acronyms used in a report that are not defined - I stop reading the report and look for something else instead. Why? Any report with undefined acronyms assumes too much or possible wasn’t checked well enough. Either way, it is a total turn off for me. Thanks again for addressing this aggravation.
I’m really happy that the blogs I wrote when I worked for you guys are still up. Thumbs up to posterity and all that. However, not to nit-pick or anything but you’ve spelled my last name wrong. It’s with an ‘i’. Just so you know.
My apologies for the misspelling. I’ve updated the byline. Hope you’re well,
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