Friday, August 29, 2008

English Language: Acronyms Part 2

If you don't live in Singapore, yesterday's post was probably pretty hard to understand. It was also pretty hard for me to write since I generally don't use acronyms or write in short form when I send a text message. When I arrived here a little bit over two years ago, I felt like people were speaking another language! But Singapore isn't the only place where acronyms and abbreviations are common.

As we become more and more busy, acronyms seem to become more and more popular. It's almost like we don't have the time to speak properly anymore! There are many arguments as to why we should avoid acronyms, but the most important one, in my opinion, is simply because they make our messages unclear.

Acronyms are region-specific. I still think it's weird that I have to apply for a work permit with the MOM. Who's mom is that exactly? I guess that since Singapore follows British English and they call their moms "mums" they didn't think it was weird to name their labor department (Ministry of Manpower) after my mom.

We should try to avoid jargon at all costs in our communication, and acronyms are another form of jargon. Every industry has it's own set of acronyms. When my husband tells me about his day at work it sounds like alphabet soup: PO, SIC, QA, PQ, ITP, OQ, RA, MS, etc. Don't ask me what any of these mean - I just hope he can't see my eyes glazing over. But when he's talking to a colleague on the phone, they both seem to understand this secret code perfectly.

The problems occur when you try to speak to a client, or someone outside of the industry about what you do. If you find it hard to explain what you do in simple terms without using acronyms you have a problem. When you use acronyms in conversation you lock people out by making them feel stupid. You assume that they know something. And you know what happens when you assume...

Have you had any funny or embarrassing mishaps with acronyms? I'd love to hear about them!

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