Re: Acronyms suck (yup)

A couple of months ago I stumbled over a post about Elon Musk, encouraging employees to stop using unnecessary acronyms.

I didn't pay much attention to it at the time, but I recognized it as a good idea. The points he makes are very valid and having a lot of acronyms are a barrier to new employees and generally exclude at the expense of typing or speaking a couple of characters less.

A couple of days ago I got an email, that reminded me of the post, so I wanted to share it. One of the organisations I'm a part of, having access to their locations sent out an email about a new system securing the doors.

The email was clearly not written with the user in mind, that often do not have access to all buildings or any idea what the different terms mean. It sounded something like this:

Key chips will work with the front door at $DEPARTMENT_ACRONYM_1 HERE, it will work at the main building and the B-Building, where you previously had to use the D-Key. If you already have a key chip for $DEPARTMENT_ACRONYM_2 HERE you will just need to use it on the main entrance and afterwards it will work on the remaining doors.
Basically the different types of keys, that I suspect I was not the only one completely oblivious about and the different department acronyms are a barrier and putting in a couple of more characters into an email that goes out to ~500 people, would be ok.

Here's a screenshot of the original mail:

A day after I received another mail, this time by the IT department and it went something like this:

Server maintenance of ABC* We'll be upgrading onto ABC in them time from 18-20 The services of ABC, XYZ and DEF will be unstable during the period

  • some acronym, that I've never heard of we even run

It's displaying incredibly well how acronyms should not be overused, especially if you're not sure that everybody is on the page. I think it really discourages people and keeps them from having an active interest, but forces users to categorise into mails they understand and mails they ignore, which I think can lead to quite some trouble, because they will misinterpret what they should take care of and what they just should ignore.

Making your users or members ignore what you're telling them, will just put them in a shell of being indifferent and not interested in the internal messages or mailing lists. Please, everybody who writes emails to more than 20 people at a time, put effort into making everybody understand. Be inclusive.

Thank you for reading! If you have any comments, additions or questions, please tweet or toot them at me!