In this modern world of information being generated, processed, validated; flying this way and that; not to mention adhering to character limits–abbreviations help us to condense important concepts for quick communication. Two popular, and often confused, methods for abbreviating an idea are acronyms and initialisms. Both use the initial letter of each word in a phrase, with the key difference being that acronyms form a word that can be spoken, while the letters are individually pronounced for initialisms (think NASA versus the NSA).
Naturally, we each gather our own personal collections of these conveniently packaged concepts. Plus, thanks to their own built-in mnemonics, acronyms and initialisms are inherently easier to remember than their longform equivalents.
While it’s fair to say that most of us have not recently needed to multiply two binomials, there’s a good chance we still remember the term FOIL having something to do with it. Don’t worry though, your atrophied math skills are not on trial here. Instead, we’ve compiled a brief list of helpful abbreviations that have proven useful in our day-to-day. We would also invite you to leave your favorite acronyms/initialisms in the comments below.
- CRAP: Contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity; Four elements to keep in mind for neat, orderly visual design (or to disregard if you’re taking the jumbled, chaotic route).
- CORE: Curiosity, openness, risk-tolerance, and energy; Four attributes in a model for creativity developed by Jordan Ayan (author of Aha!).
- GREAT: Get really excited about today; Tying in to the ‘E’ in CORE (energy), having or finding the right attitude makes accomplishing wonderful things much more possible.
- KISS: Keep it simple, stupid; If we apply Occam’s razor to the creative process, we see that each extra step in a solution is an assumption that could either fail or add negligible benefit for the effort invested. In other words, simplicity ensures that every piece has value, and can carry its own weight.
- SUMO: Shut up, move on; Time is the most precious commodity we will ever have. Once the important information has been relayed, the next step is getting back to work.
- MILE: Maximum impact, least effort; The goal here is efficiency, not laziness. However, in defense of the lazy, Bill Gates once said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
- CYA: Cover your arse; The best way to insulate yourself from an inevitable calamity is to keep the lines of communication open, ensure that expectations are properly managed, and to keep a record of what was said as a reference.
- RTFM: Read the [effin’] manual; Somehow, somewhere a techwriter and legal department will thank you for this. You may even also acquire have a better idea of how to use whatever tool you’re pretending to know how to use.
- FUBAR: [Effed] up beyond all recognition; Sometimes a project takes a turn so severe that it can only be identified through dental records. This does not mean it is beyond redemption–just that it’s far from it.
Now, it’s your turn! We want to know what acronyms/initialisms you use on a daily basis. They could be specific to your industry, or ways to hold onto general wisdom. Let us know in the comments!