Acronyms and Buzzwords Are Killing Your Communication


I saw a tweet recently that quoted an Elon Musk email. The email addressed the dangers of letting people within SpaceX use and make up acronyms and how that negatively effects communication. As if communication needed anything else to complicate it. This hit pretty close to home.

Not too long ago I worked for a CEO who made using completely made-up acronyms and terms his prerogative in every conversation we had. He was an extremely articulate and intelligent person but a terrible communicator.

I won’t name the acronyms explicitly but they were dropped in meetings and throughout documentation with little explanation if any. You just sorta had to know by educated guesses. No one wanted to look stupid asking for an explanation. A detrimental position for anyone to be in but one might argue that if you don’t ask questions you shouldn’t be working in that position anyway. That’s easier said than done for a lot of people.

Another thing that often happens is you have slightly different definitions which also has destructive affects in meetings and 1-on-1 conversations. This is valuable time that can be spent having conversations about actual problems and not debating the definitions of acronyms and terms.

If you’re having conversations about your product, talk about it using language that anyone who isn’t familiar with your product or industry can understand. Do it in a way so you aren’t speaking to your team or audience like a baby in a patronizing manner either. You’ll be surprised at all the bullshit you cut through and how much more efficient and effective your meetings become.

As a side note, there are obviously situations where using acronyms are appropriate when you are intimately familiar with the group of people you’re speaking to. For example, if you’re talking to your dev leads, it’s obviously OK to use API, DB, TDD, etc… things that are in your normal day-to-day vocabulary anyways.

So next time you’re talking shop with your team, leave the wacky acronyms, buzzwords and terminology at the door.


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