Acronyms are rude

They may save space and time but they frustrate and slows understanding.

I attended a training seminar where I listened to a lot of acronyms for learning related people, and actions, and I found myself very annoyed. The first speaker was not only boring, and stilted, she kept referencing to Subject Matter Experts as SME’s (Smees). Now, I ask you… would you rather be called an Expert or a Smee? While SME might mean Subject Matter Expert it doesn’t actually call the person an expert.

Acronyms mean different things in different worlds.

MPG might mean Miles Per Gallon to many of us but in another context MPG Minutes Per Game or Manual Pulse Generator. I work in the software industry and FEP stands for Front End Processor, yet I also work with many federal agencies where FEP stands for Federal Employee Program so using the word FEP in my training courses would be highly confusing for them.

This is why I avoid using acronyms as much as humanly possible. While it may take me a few seconds longer to complete my sentences, those in my classes, and those reading my documents don’t waste precious mental processing capacity trying to figure out what I “mean.”

Did you know that when you pass a word, or acronym, you don’t understand in your reading you can read several pages, or minutes, without comprehension because your brain is busy trying to figure out that word or acronym? I remember reading the article about this way back in 1989 in a Chiropractic office because I came back to attention on this tidbit.

Ever since that article, I started writing with an awareness that I am writing for an audience that might not have the same background and awareness of the contents as I do. It wasn’t until I started watching shows like the Amazing Race that I realized that not every American has the same experiences I did. That really gave me even more motivation to write with clarity.

When I say it is rude to use acronyms I mean it. It assumes that your audience understands you when they may not. As an educator, speaker, or even just as a person speaking to another in public, it is your responsibility to convey your message so that others can follow.

When Martin Luther King gave his speeches he didn’t speak in shorthand. He didn’t shortcut his words. He didn’t assume that his audience came from the same experiences as he did. He spoke with a purpose. To draw you in with his words. To fill you with hope. To help you hear the message.

When you speak, or write, do you convey your message well? Do you call a spade a spade, or do you beat around the bush and hope that people will get your point?