How many times did I walk past this sign last week looking for the restroom?
More times than I care to admit.
The beautiful conference center at the #aloftseattleredmond, where I had the honor of facilitating a three-day Advanced Communication Program for one of my clients, marked the hallway to the restrooms with this sign: WC. Several of us wandered aimlessly during our meeting breaks until we figured out WC stood for water closet!
Most of us work in industries laden with acronyms. We sometimes use them without thinking, but we must be mindful to explain them the first time we use them with audiences outside our industry. So, the first time we introduce an acronym in writing, we use the acronym first, and then we define it in parentheses.
The new policy requires engineers to sign the completed SJF before submitting it to the warehouse.
If you’re like me, you have no idea what an SJF is. The writer should explain it thusly:
The new policy requires engineers to sign the completed SJF (Stock Justification Form) before submitting it to the warehouse.
Again, if you’re like me, this is OPPOSITE of how we learned to define acronyms in school. But, the use of parentheses indicates that what is inside of them is “of secondary importance.” The acronym is what we want to stand out on the page; therefore, we don’t want to bury it in parentheses. We use the acronym first and then spell out the name or expression in parentheses. It makes sense.
What are other examples of acronyms we use so regularly that we forget to define them for others?
Perhaps this is a question you can ponder the next time you’re in the water closet.
To customize a keynote or professional development session that will have your audience laughing and learning, contact Mandi Stanley.
Certified Speaking Professional Mandi Stanley works with business leaders who want to boost their professional image by becoming better speakers and writers through interactive high-content keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, technical writing seminars, and fun proofreading classes.
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