Note: This blog was originally posted on Mike’s Blog.

Forgive me in advance, but I’m going to go on a bit of a rant here. I simply can’t take it anymore.

One of the little discussed aspects of corporate culture is our affinity for using acronyms*. I’ve worked at a number of different companies and they all had this in common. I used to think it was just a tech thing – some subconscious desire to reduce the spoken word into linguistic “bits”, but my counterparts in retail, manufacturing and communications assure me it is the same in their industries.

A couple of years ago I came across an article that indicated the first recorded use of “OMG” was in a letter from British Admiral Lord John Fisher to, of all people, Winston Churchill in 1917. (As an aside, can you imagine using this expression in a communication with “The British Bulldog” as he was then known? LOL!) With the widespread adoption of texting, Twitter and other social networking, the use of acronyms like this is a trend that is accelerating.

At Adobe we take it to an entirely new level. Acronym usage is so rampant here that an internal market has developed with employees trading lists of company acronyms like they are some sort of corporate Rosetta Stone.

As an example, I recently attended a meeting where we reviewed the performance of a number of our businesses. During one ten minute period, I jotted down the following acronyms that were used during a presentation: “VIP”, “ARR”, “CLP”,” TLP”, “GTM”, “CCM”, “SMB”, “ETLA”, “POSA”, “STE”, “CS6”, “CC”, “EOL”, “STL”,” DPS”, “COGS”, “OEM”, “ROW”, “MD&P”, “CAGR” and “CCE”. One of the presenters even achieved the linguistic equivalent of running the four-minute mile by using an impressive seven acronyms in a single sentence!

I almost applauded and handed him a towel and a Gatorade.

Upon reflection, however, I realized that I had become distracted from the content of the presentation because I was too focused on trying to understand the acronyms.

And for presenters, that’s a real problem. You put countless hours developing a presentation so that you can inform or influence your audience. That work is wasted if your audience doesn’t understand your message.

So, here’s a novel idea. How about considering the audience you are addressing? Are you certain that everyone in the room understands the acronyms you are using? If not, use the full words or phrase at the beginning of your presentation before you begin using the acronym.

Your future audiences will thank you and your presentations will be far more effective.

Rant over.

g2g – ttyl!


*For you logophiles, I know that the more accurate term is an initialism but I’m going to use acronym in its broadest sense.