This many acronyms is barking
Stop abbreviation overload now (SAON)
Cui bono? For whose benefit? That was our question when we saw that the Information Commissioner’s Office had asked employees to avoid using phrases of foreign, especially Latin, origin in its communications.
"Some words of foreign origin are so uncommon that they confuse or alienate our readers,” it explained. You might think this was advice after our own hearts, but then we read the list of phrases to be avoided included “en route”, “per se” and “quid pro quo”, and began to wonder. Is anyone really confused by “en route”?
We were not the only sceptics, because up popped former government minister Lord Wolfson of Tredegar to say the real problem with “civil service speak” was not foreign phrases, but the proliferation of ugly acronyms. He pointed out that the ICO’s (Information Commissioner’s Office) own home page included OGL (open government licence), FOI, SME, DPO (see below) and more.
The good lord is quite right. Like jargon, acronyms are a form of language that aims to limit understanding to initiates, while excluding outsiders. Lord Wolfson’s worst offender was the appalling “XGA” (cross-government approval).
Here at Highbrook, we try to spell out every acronym at first use. We reckon that nobody who knows what ESG (environmental, social and governance) or SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) stand for will be offended by seeing them written out, while those who don’t will be grateful we made the effort.
So, to test the thesis, here are eight acronyms in fairly common use. Do you know what they all mean?
Find the answers here.