Drowning in alphabet soup

By Amy Beth Miller

Title 1, EHA, IEP, FAPE, NSBA, FAFSA, Perkins, LRE, OCR, OSEP …

On my first day as an editor for a group of education publications, my head was swimming with all the abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms I encountered.

Near the end of the day a co-worker said something about the SAT, and I asked “What’s that?” Immediately I recalled that I knew what SAT meant well before I started work that morning. In fact, I had scored fairly well on the college admission test just a few years before.

One abbreviation can mean entirely different things in different contexts. A quilter probably wouldn’t blink if I mentioned my “UFO” but others might give me strange looks when I talk about that “unfinished object.”

Be a courteous communicator: Explain an abbreviation when you first mention it to someone who might not understand. That practice is particularly important in a format such as email, where you won’t see the other person’s puzzled expression.

Which abbreviations have caused headaches—or laughs—in your workplace?

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6 responses to “Drowning in alphabet soup

  1. Just stumbled on your blog. Interesting stuff.

    It might interest you to know that SAT isn’t actually an acronym/abbreviation. It doesn’t stand for anything. Originally it stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test. Some years ago, the College Board decided to scrap that name after years of criticism, and decided the test would just be called the SAT (or SAT Reasoning Test). Weird, right?

  2. Thanks, Brian.
    I did know that because I was working on those publications covering education when the SAT went through several changes in the 1990s.
    I can understand the organization wanting to keep a well-known brand name, and I think it is better for the letters to stand for nothing than when it was briefly called the “Scholastic Assessment Test.”

  3. Nice to see another editor who quilts! As soon as I saw ‘UFO’ I knew what you meant ;-)

  4. Pingback: Give listeners a clue | Nitpickers' Nook

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