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To acronym or not to acronym

Should I use Acronyms?

To acronym or not to acronym, that is the question. First let's state the obvious. We use acronyms to speed up communication, but we also use them to position a brand.

Long before the reign of Julius Caesar, acronyms have had a place in society. For example, the official name for the Roman Empire, and the Republic before it, was abbreviated as SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus). I guess whether they were scribing names in full, or carving them into stone, they’d cut the artist a little slack and shave off a few words.

Ironically, thousands of years later we're shortening our communication for other reasons. It would seem that in our fast paced world of texting and abridged communications, we immediately look towards acronyms to speed up our communication. No longer are we whittling away carving initials into wood, rather we're mashing the keypad of our phones to get our point across.

When to use Acronyms?

Acronyms have their place and time and within the right context and weight they can be quite powerful. From what I can tell, the most popular arrangement is of 3 Letters, used wisely they can end up being universally synonymous with the subject they represent. Working this angle takes effort, and a lot of face time in the media.

Established General Understanding (EGU)

Once you have Established a General Understanding (EGU), you can now proceed to use the your acronym through the rest of your communication. I suggest that you stick with an Acronym that is the star of the show. Once you have established your main point in an acronym, try not to use acronyms for other terms within the content of the current subject. You just confuse people YJCP while trying to EGUOK?

National Barbecue Association IS NOT the NBA

You have to be careful when selecting an acronym to brand under, not only are there legal implications but there are social implications too. You could go broke trying to convince someone that the National Barbecue Association is realized as the NBA. It's just not going to happen, ever.

You must do your due diligence, never shrug off pop culture, and on a side of caution hire a trademark lawyer to do some ground work to make sure you're in the right. Fail to do so and you could end up like the WWF...sorry the now WWE Pandas 1 / Hulk Hogan 0.

WWF - For all you youngsters out there you may be familiar with the top turnbuckle flying testosterone enriched antics of the WWE, but before it was the WWE it was the WWF. When I hear the name WWF, the first thing that comes to mind is Hulk Hogan. However the "World Wildlife Foundation" didn’t believe in the prayers, training and the vitamins. Hulk-a-maniacs they weren't, and took the World Wrestling Foundation to court for using the acronym. They won.

Considerations in your corporate communications

Strong Existing Acronyms
CAA, AAA, AA, NBA - Understanding any existing acronyms that people already have a strong association to.

Avoid Sexual Association (unless you're into that?)
BBW, BJ, NSFW, FFM, MMF - Just Google these acronyms and see what you get. Warning, Not Suitable For Work (NSFW). I can assure you that if you Google "BBW" the first images you get will not be of "Bob's Boat Works". Tread carefully.

When it comes to acronyms there is a lot to consider. It can be natural wanting to shorten things for speed sake, but not at the expense of a potentially huge mistake.

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Paul Phillips
Written By

Paul Phillips

Co-founder, Partner and Creative Director at Jackson Wynne @tack_paul