Nearly every professional has jargon and specialized vocabulary that pertains to their particular career. Acronyms, initialisms, and abbreviations are often used to simplify sometimes complex verbiage. While on the whole, this can make communication simpler and more effective, sometimes these verbal shortcuts can cause even more confusion than the initial terms. Check out our tips to make sure acronyms are helping and not hurting your communication:
- Make sure you’re saying it correctly. Before using an acronym out loud, know whether to say each individual letter or to pronounce the abbreviation like a word. For example, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is pronounced as a word, while FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) is pronounced as individual letters.
- Keep it clear. Be sure to pronounce each letter clearly, pronouncing each sound. Also, watch your pace. Don’t rush through the word or blend the letters together. Acronyms can be confusing to begin with—if you don’t take extra care with clarity, there’s a very high chance your listener will be confused.
- Know your audience. It’s easy to get caught up in our own professional world and forget that not everyone uses the same terms on a regular basis. An acronym which may be common knowledge to you may be completely new to your listener. Unless you are 100% sure that all of your listeners are familiar with your acronym, either provide a quick explanation (“This number includes VAT, value added tax.”), or don’t use it at all.
- Don’t quiz your listener. When speaking, don’t ask if your listener knows what the acronym means; just say the full phrase the first time you use it. Asking whether or not your listener understands is much more disruptive to the flow of communication than simply playing it safe and clarifying.
Check out the following video by Corporate Speech Solutions founder and President, Jayne Latz to learn more about how to effectively incorporate acronyms into your daily professional life:
If your communication skills are holding you back from professional success and you want to make your communication skills your most powerful professional tool, make sure to pick up a free copy of my e-book “Communicate with Clarity and Confidence!” by subscribing to our newsletter community on our website. In this free resource, I break down the myriad factors that contribute to confident communication and guide you through how to use each aspect to your advantage.
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