Let’s Banish Acronyms

Let’s Banish Acronyms

They Make My Head Hurt

Are you sick of acronyms, those dreadful abbreviations for actual words? I am, and it seems as if new ones pop up daily. What are we supposed to do? Google them or run to a dictionary to see what they mean?

confused over acronymsNow admittedly, a lot of acronyms are common to us. Let’s talk IRS, FBI, NASA and DNA. (That last one? DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic acid. Uh huh. Sure. We all knew its exact definition, right? We can all even pronounce it properly. Yes, sure; right again.)

But many acronyms simply aren’t familiar, which is a problem when trying to understand an article that matters, and yet no explanation is presented. It’s as if the entire populace should magically understand those cluster of letters.

In my case, I went over the threshold of mere annoyance into outright exasperation when my husband and I began looking into financial advisors. We were sent a lot of material to read. Here are some acronyms that popped up:

IAR, MAS, NFS, B/Ds, ETFs, TPIA — and those were just a few of them. For each I struggled to find the original reference in a fat document prepared in tiny print. Too often, I never could. Frankly, the document begged for a glossary.

Of course, there are other acronyms made up on the fly because of recent events. Take “Brexit,” for instance. It creeped into our language about a year ago, leaving lots of us scratching our heads. Well, by now perhaps we all know what Brexit means, because over time it was repeatedly used in standard media accounts in print and on television. (If you aren’t certain yet, it essentially means “Britain’s Decision to Exit the European Union.”)

Another acronym that floated into our lexicon in the same manner? GMO. Someone asked me what it meant, assuming that because I’m a writer I’d obviously know. Well, it stands for “genetically modified organism” and it’s controversial. I had a sense of what it meant, but still had to look it up to be certain.

I can tell you this with certainty: Authors do a better job in handling acronyms. Yes, some acronyms in mysteries such as “DOA,” meaning “dead on arrival,” are very common because they’ve been around for a long time in mysteries like my Claudia Hershey series and in TV cop dramas, and they have a context within the story. They need no further explanation. However, if an author, such as bestseller Jeffery Deaver, drops an acronym into his mysteries — books heavily seeded with scientific and investigatory techniques — he explains them. He does it in a casual way that flows with his storyline. Why can’t that be handled the same way in all types of media?

Well, if ever you’re stuck on an acronym check the Acronym Finder. It could become your best friend because acronyms aren’t going away. Ever. And none of us wants to look stupid.