JS Tip 219: From the Writing Workshops: Using Abbreviations and Acronyms


This week, within the space of eleven minutes, we received two nearly identical requests.

Chris Workman, an engineer with the ETC Group, asked, “Would it be possible to have a weekly tip focused on abbreviations and acronyms in technical reports?”

Jacob Hortin, a benefits specialist with Zions Bancorporation, asked, “Have you recently discussed the appropriateness of using abbreviations in emails?”

We can do this.

A couple of thoughts.

Use abbreviations and acronyms your readers will understand.

In other words, know our audience. Some abbreviations and acronyms are standard and well known:

Ms., Mr., Dr.

No problem here. No explanation necessary. Some are industry-dependent:


If there’s a reasonable likelihood your reader will understand the abbreviation or acronym, use it.

But if not . . .

Introduce the abbreviation or acronym.

Write the full version and enclose the short form in parentheses:

We’ll provide Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) every year.   

Let us know your questions and concerns. We love this stuff. We really do.