FYI, people don’t always understand acronyms

11 October, 2007

Yesterday I took part in a seminar on the topic of hotel website design and online bookings, for an audience mostly consisting of hoteliers from Ho Chi Minh City and around.

 During his presentation, one of my fellow speakers said the following:

 “Using an XML interface, it’s easy to connect your PMS to your GDS network.”

 Personally I didn’t bat an eyelid as I know what each of those acronyms means, but I noticed some of the attendees looking a bit confused and then one attendee put her hand up and said “Can you stop using abbreviations please, we are hoteliers not computer experts!”

It got me thinking that, whilst many companies have done a good job in removing industry-specific jargon from their communication, many of them have replaced it with acronyms. I’m currently putting together a glossary for our corporate website to explain the following to the uninitiated:


…all of which appear on our homepage or on our product pages! 

Acronyms should be used with caution – they are after all just a form of shorthand to make communication between peers and colleagues quicker and simpler. When you’re communicating outside your peer group or your own industry, most of your acronyms no longer make sense. 

I can talk to my colleagues about how we’ve improved our ROMI by using PPC and SEO, but when I’m doing e-marketing consulting/training for our customers, I have to tell them how they can improve their return on marketing investment by using pay-per-click and search engine optimisation. It takes a bit longer, but at least they understand me. 

So next time you’re tempted to use an acronym, think about what it means, and think about who you’re talking to or writing for – if in doubt, write it out!

One Response to “FYI, people don’t always understand acronyms”

  1. Peter Says:

    I’m with you! One thing though, everyone seems to say ‘acronym’ when they mean ‘abbreviation’

    1. a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase or series of words, as Wac from Women’s Army Corps, OPEC from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or loran from long-range navigation.

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