Gary Martin is a workplace expert with the Australian Institute of Management.
Gary Martin is a workplace expert with the Australian Institute of Management.

OMG I think I’ve got a case of acronymitis

They were once used by the military to disguise sensitive information, campaigns and operations.

Now acronyms are taking over how we communicate at work.

Every workplace, from finance to insurance, retail to academia and technology to the entertainment industry, has its own set of acronyms.

FWIW (for what it's worth), from your ETA (estimated time of arrival) until COB (close of business) or even until EOW (end of week), you can be guaranteed that even those who are OOO (out of the office) or VWs (virtual workers) will be repeatedly exposed to acronyms to a level where they feel some of those abbreviations are permanently lodged in their brain like pieces of shrapnel.

Some even argue that acronyms foster a sense of belonging and speed up the communication process in the workplace (think: OMG, ASAP, FAQ, WFH and TBC).

Besides, some acronyms have ended up becoming proper words in their own right.

Who would have thought, for example, that "scuba" actually stands for "self-contained underwater breathing apparatus", "radar" is "radio detection and ranging" and a SIM card a "subscriber identification module" card?

Yet many of our colleagues are using too many acronyms too frequently and end up suffering from a debilitating condition called "acronymitis".

Some describe those with acronymitis as selfish and lazy simply because the onus to interpret something correctly is dumped on the receiver.

And alarmingly, many acronyms have multiple meanings.

The simple acronym CTA, across the globe, has literally hundreds of meanings including "call to action", "close to arrival", "customer to advise", "chief technical adviser" and "cover their ass".

The commonly used acronym "FIFO" means "fly in, fly out" to some and "first in, first out" to others while LOL means "laugh out loud" to those in a playful mood and "lots of love" for those feeling a touch affectionate.

BTW (by the way), some experts say those who overuse acronyms try to come across as more intelligent - and less insecure.

And look out for a new species of one-letter acronyms, such as "v" for very. You will read this in emails, texts, social media and in everyday speech: v concerning, v nice, v annoying and v upsetting.

And to sully the reputation of acronyms further, they are increasingly being associated with foul language (think: FUBAR, WTF, SFA) that neither warrants nor allows further discussion.

If you remain unconvinced about the need to curb your overuse of acronyms, then there is a need for this whole discussion TBC - that is "to be continued", not "to be confirmed".

Professor Gary Martin is a workplace expert with the Australian Institute of Management







Originally published as OMG I think I've got a case of acronymitis