Business English Quick Tips: acronyms

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…

What is an acronym?

It is a series of initials (and sometimes additional letters) that, strung together, are made into a new word that you can say. Examples of this include:

NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organization, pronounced “nay-toh”

UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, pronounced “you-ness-coh”

NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard, pronounced “nim-bee”

OPEC – Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, pronounced “oh-peck”

Now. What is NOT an acronym?

This is where it gets tricky. Most people think that any shortened form or set of initials is an “acronym,” but that’s not correct. For example:

B&B – Bed & Breakfast

GMT – Greenwich Mean Time

PC – Politically Correct

TLC – Tender Loving Care

…are frequently called acronyms, but are in fact abbreviations (or to be absolutely correct, they are “initials.”)

Basically, look at it this way: if you can say it as a new word, it’s an acronym, and if you can’t, it’s an abbreviation.

Whichever you use in your writing, always be sure to explain what the acronym or abbreviation stands for at least once in your text. Ideally, the first time you use the term you should spell it out in full showing the acronym or abbreviation in brackets immediately afterwards, like this:

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

For a really useful 200-page guide to business writing in English, check out “Business Writing Made Easy” – you’ll find it very, very helpful! Click here

And for something a bit different, try the exercises associated with this article in my “30 Day Business Writing Challenge – Click here

More next week … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section, and I will try to answer them as well as I can.