In your day to day, how many acronyms or initialisms do you use or here?

When I took on a project role for Austrade in Abu Dhabi back in the mid 2000’s I was handed 2 A4 pieces of paper which had all the acronyms and initialisms used by the team. Receiving these pages was a tad bit overwhelming, having these pages was incredibly helpful.

Elon Musk, of SpaceX and Tesla brilliance, sent a company wide email stopping the use of acronyms.

There is a creeping evidence to use made up acronyms at SpaceX. Excessive use of made up acronyms is a significant impediment to communication and keeping communication good as we grow is credibly important. individually, a few acronyms here and there may not seem so bad, but if a thousand people are making these up, over time the result will be a huge glossary that we have to issue to new employees.

Exactly what happened to me when I took on the project role for Austrade.

Musk’s email continues:

No one can actually remember all these acronyms and people don’t want to seem dumb in a meeting, so they just sit there in ignorance. This is particularly tough on new employees.

Even with the 2 pages of acronyms issued to me, I stood out as the newbie because I had to sit with my ‘cheat sheets’ in front of me, while others ‘showed off’ by prattling on in acronym laden diatribes.

The clear and guiding point Musk states in this famous email is …

The key test for an acronym is to ask whether it helps or hurts communication.

When acronyms silence or confuse they hinder quality communication and that leads to delays, mistakes, procrastination which in turn dents confidence, self-leadership and productivity. 


[By the way, TLA’s? Three Letter Acronyms!]

I’d love to know your thoughts…


Elon Musk: How The Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping Our Futureby Ashlee Vance, 2016: pp239-240