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Acronym Snafus
By Paul Krantz

Less is not always more. That’s especially true with acronyms. These shorthand expressions save typing time -- its so much quicker to tap out CDC instead of  “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”  But when writers use acronyms without thinking, the results can be hard to read and sometimes   impossible to understand.

Here are three rules for the effective use of acronyms.

1. Regardless of your audience, stick to acronyms that are widely used by the general public. No one would be confused by NASA, DNA, DVD or BYOB.

2. Never assume that your readers will understand your industry’s jargon. Even within a business setting, not everyone will instantly associate SOP with “standard operating procedure.” When in doubt, spell it out.

3. If you need to use a acronym to avoid tedious repetition, spell out the phrase the first time you need it followed by the acronym in parentheses.

Follow these guidelines, and you’ll avoid the dreaded “situation normal -- all fouled up” (snafu).
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