Performance Perspectives Blog

Abbreviations & acronyms

by | Dec 5, 2009

This post has NOTHING to do with performance. It’s the weekend, and I simply want to comment on the use of abbreviations and acronyms. First, I fully support their use. In fact, I favor even more use of them. Let’s first consider the difference: as points out, an acronym is “a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase or series of words.” Examples: RADAR, ASAP, and WAC. In the world of investment performance we have GIPS. Acronyms are abbreviations, but not all abbreviations are acronyms. For example, “PPS” (performance presentation standards) is an abbreviation, but since it isn’t a word (i.e., you can’t say it; you only say the letters individually) it’s not an acronym. Understand, however, that there are a LOT of folks who would say that PPS IS an acronym, and even though they’re technically wrong, society seems to be loosening the strict meaning of this term. But, we won’t debate this here.

I happen to be a big fan of acronyms. We named our annual performance conference in such a way that it forms an acronym (PMAR = PeeMar). Our fall event was called TIA (Spanish for Aunt, but that’s merely a coincidence and has no relevance).

I spent almost five years in the Army … the military LOVES acronyms. TRADOC = Training Doctrine Command; USAFAS = You-sa-fas = United States Army Field Artillery School. We already cited WAC, which is Women’s Army Corp.

Some military acronyms have become commonly used and often misused. Take, for example, FUBAR and SNAFU. They’re actually somewhat profane, though I’ll use the softer translations: FUBAR = fowled up beyond all recognition; SNAFU = situation normal, all fowled up. When Bill Clinton was President he once remarked that they “had a SNAFU.” I would suggest that first, the President shouldn’t use such a term. Second, I don’t believe it was the proper way to phrase it, though I won’t be a stickler on this point. To me, any time you use a word or expression you should know what it means, otherwise you may offend (take folks who regularly use the Yiddish word “schmuck.” This is NOT a nice word and shouldn’t be used in mixed company…sorry).

The “word” ASAP is often used and, in my opinion, carries more weight than it’s full meaning. If I tell you “I need this report ASAP” versus “I need this report as soon as possible,” which sounds more urgent? I suggest the former, even though their meanings are identical.

Three abbreviations that are in common use in the military but that haven’t made it into the outside world are IAW, NLT, and COB (COB isn’t usually pronounced as a word “cob” but rather is treated as an abbreviation: c-o-b). IAW = in accordance with; NLT = no later than; COB = close of business. For example, “I need your report IAW my memo of July 7th NLT, COB this Friday.” Army guys use this wording ALL the time … shouldn’t it fit into our writing, too?

I rarely text on my phone and know that there is a host of abbreviations that folks use to save keystrokes. I am also aware that some young people now write reports for school using these abbreviations, which is causing some concerns: students need to know how to properly write before using shorthand notation. I don’t intend to adopt these shorthand expressions in my writing, though I think a well placed abbreviation or acronym can be quite helpful. Hope you agree.

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