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Abbreviations, Acronyms & Jargon

We just got an email shot from Savvion, a company that does a good job in its marketing…

The headline: “Just Make ERP Work! How BPM Bridges the ERP and SOA Gap.”

Let’s put aside the shrill use of upper case and dreaded exclamation point for a moment, and take a look at all those abbreviations (Apparently they’re not acronyms — RADAR is an acronym because you say it like a word).

Abbreviations, acronyms and jargon in general are pretty much unavoidable in tech marketing copy. If this really bothers you, you could insist on writing out Service-Oriented Architecture every time you refer to it. But your prose would soon sag under its own weight.

The truth is, abbreviations, acronyms & jargon (AAJ) tend to represent complex, often abstract things that you just don’t want to have to spell out over and over again. It’s not just laziness, the reader wouldn’t thank you for banning them either.

But the reader is the final arbiter here.

A few tips:

  • If you’re writing to techies about SOA and ERP and BPM, relax. They know what you mean and it signals that you do too — that you’re an insider.
  • Even if you’re sure the reader will understand the AAJ, it’s good manners to define it by unfurling it in full the first time you use it (maybe putting the abbreviation in brackets as above).
  • If you’re not going to use the term again — don’t do the abbreviation/bracket trick. It’s pointless. Just spell it out and move on.
  • For new abbreviations that have not yet achieved critical mass in the marketplace (or ones you’ve coined yourself) go slowly. Define it as you use it, more than once. Don’t assume the reader has memorised it. Give the term plenty of airings in unabbreviated form.

Jargon is shorthand for experts. It’s not the enemy, it’s an effective communication tool if it’s used correctly and judiciously.

Sorry Savvion, four times in one headline is not judicious.

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