FYI or FYA? Buzzing with acronyms

The daily madness of office slang consists in receiving a short mail marked with high priority and a few lines filled with abbreviations you don’t fully understand. Something like:

To: team;
fyi and fyeo,
Imo, this is a big wombat and we have to react asap before this gets a real fubar. It should be definitively an oop-script.
Please, meat asap to set up a project. Team leader tba later on in the meeting note’s cc.
Hth: The CMO is Ooo tomorrow.
Tia, cu
PD: pfa all you need.

What would this mail translate to plain English?

To: Team
For your interest and for your eyes only.
In my opinion, this is a big waste of money, business and time, and we have to react to this as soon as possible before this gets really fouled up beyond all recognition. It should be definitively an object oriented programming script.
Please, meat as soon as possible to set up a project. The team leader for this project will be communicated via the carbon copy field in the meetings notes later on.
Hope this helps: The Chief Marketing Officer will be out of the office tomorrow.
Thanks in advance, see you
PD. Please find attached all information you need.

Which one would you prefer to read first in the morning? Which one should you be able to understand?
Yes, you answered correctly to both 🙂

Is this the entry to an advanced circle of the marketing illuminati? Or just your lazy colleague who is drowning in mails and just forwards everything adding a few shortcodes in order to keep his inbox clean?

Many acronyms sound like a sort of secret code for those who are not used to business and marketing. Some mails and conversations can become a sort of abbreviated slang for insiders that clearly marks everyone not participating in it. Obviously, if you want to feel part of the enlightened ones you have to participate in the chitchat at work and try to engage in this kind of language.

But you should avoid two things in order not to look like an idiot: Not knowing the exact meaning of an acronym or misspelling it. So you should be sure about the meaning of acronyms and be sure to spell them correctly to join the happy family at work.

Therefore, here are a few tips on the most common office abbreviations:

You need to know abbreaviations in their context to understand the corporate alien.

You think you knew them all? You though you could just fake your entry into the higher levels of management? Impress your desk neighbors? Beware of false friends in marketing-slang, because in the enlightened group of office illuminati usual abbreviations change their significance and adopt another meanings.

Some examples:

  1. CRO can be used for conversion rate optimisation, companies registration office, certified radio operator or Chief Risk Office
  2. CPM can be used for cost per impression, certified product manager, critical path methos or certified public manager.
  3. CPA can be used for Certified Public Accountant, Click Per Acquisition, Cost per Action, Critical Path Analysis, Chartered Patent Agent and some more meanings.

How do you check the spelling of abbreviations? Are there any rules?

The basic rule is that if an abbreviation is formed by several words and written like this e.g., there should be no blank spaces between the characters, that is, no space should appear after internal periods.

This way, in e.g., which means “for example” (from the Latin exempli gratia) your spellchecker will rule out any space between characters and dots, as well as the need for commas

The same rule applies to i.e., that also specifies an example and means “as is”, derived from the Latin id est.

Abbreviations should be written out in text documents in order to avoid misunderstandings, as there are acronyms which vary their significance according to different context and environments.

You don’t need to do this when abbreviations are part of a personal reference. So you will write Mr. Smith, Mrs. Smith and Dr. Smith.

Outside this naming context you should write them as full words, like in “I went to the doctor” or “Hello, mister, how did you get into this closed closet?”.

There are however acronyms that are normally written as a single word, even if they are pronounced like a sequence of letters. For example, the FEDEX package will remain a FEDEX freight, and a UPS parcel will also be written as a UPS package.

If the first letter of the abbreviated word is used, all letters will be capital, like in CIA, NSA, BBC, USA, MP, CD or UN.

For these expressions you don’t need full stops or dots after each letter, as they are so called Initialisms, i.e., acronyms starting with the first letter of each word they are formed of.

When using initialisms in the plural form, you don’t need to use an apostrophe and can use a simple plural “s”, like in CDs or MPs.

If it is a possessive form you need to write an apostrophe ‘s’ like in CD’s subtitles or the USA’s biggest cities.

Many words we use in daily life used to be classified as acronyms, but have merged into the usual vocabulary and are perceived as full words in their own right, like radar, laser or scuba.

How do you make use of acronyms?

  • Learn them and use them for your own profit
  • Add the most common acronyms you use to your spellchecker dictionary
  • Be careful not to overuse them to avoid being seen as a corporate idiot
  • If you want to be funny, just occasionally drop you counter striking vocabulary and position yourself with words like “Banalysis” (trivial analysis), Bio-Break (having a break due to natural necessities), wombat (wast of money, business and time), fubar (an error you can’t amend) or facetime (useless time spent at the office just showing your face in order to be noticed).

Useful links:

A list of common general business abbreviations

An edited list of the top 1000 abbreviations selected by human editors

Internet Slang for beginners

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