Oh, For Goodness Sake, Please Don’t Use Acronyms.

I have this one friend, and apparently she thinks I apparently have all these awesome sneakified tricks up my sleeve because whenever I see her she asks me for some sort of business tip.

Which sounds kind of annoying, except that when it’s her I really don’t mind.

Anyway, I always just say the first thing that comes into my head.

And the last time this happened, the first thing that came into my head was this:

Don’t. Use. Acronyms.

And then she said, “Huh?”

And I said, “I’m so turning this into a blog post.”

So here it is. No acronyms.

Internal acronyms are fine — it’s when you’re using them in public that you want to be careful.

So in my own business, if I’m leaving a message for one of the people on my pirate crew, I can still use acronyms as shorthand.

I can refer to Shiva Nata as ShNa. And I do.

Or the emergency calming techniques can go by ECT. That’s fine for internal communication.

But it’s not cool if I expect you guys to know what the hell I’m talking about.

Obviously, the poor … oh, five subscribers to my noozletter back in — oh dear — December 2005 had to deal with receiving their issue of “TFS News”.*

And yes, I’m sure they were all completely confused. Yes, TFS stands for The Fluent Self and that was incredibly obvious to … well, mostly me.

*But now that thousands and thousands of people read even the most ridiculous things that I write? I still don’t get to use acronyms. I know, it’s not fair.

But doesn’t it make you seem more biggified if you have an acronym?


Best case scenario is that people have to do an extra few calculations in their heads to figure out what you’re talking about. Worst case is the whole “a confused mind says no” thing.

And it really is confusing. Just not to you. Because it’s your thing and you hang out with it all the time.

Anyway, lots of people (probably even most people) already think you’re all biggified because you have a website and maybe even a blog or a noozletter and stuff.

But what about “brand recognition”?

And lest you think that I’m a total icky marketing-ey person for saying “brand recognition” (oh, and “marketing”), let me just make it clear that this was her question.

She was worried that if she stopped referring to her thing as a series of letters strung together, that people might not take it as seriously. Or that they wouldn’t even remember it.

And this is a legitimate worry. I mean, you’re allowed to feel worried if that’s what you’re feeling.

It does feel scary when we desperately want people to remember who we are.

Here’s the thing, though.

It doesn’t work that way.

You’re not IBM.

And neither am I.

The same goes for people who are way more biggified than I am.

The likelihood that any of us — no matter how biggified or how just-starting-out — are going to come up with an acronym that is so sticky and so memorable that people are going to instantly know what it is when they see it…

Not very high.

I’ve been subscribing to Alon Sagee‘s excellent Yoga Business Journal for years — and I never, ever remember what YBJ stands for.

Back when I still got email, I subscribed to hundreds of noozletters and they all began with a string of initials and I never knew what anything was.

Even when I went to Vancouver to spend an entire weekend studying about how to become Beyond Booked Solid with Michael Port… I still had to work (each time!) to figure out what the damn BBS stood for on the handouts.

People just aren’t going to remember your thing.

At least not the acronym version of your thing.

But they will remember you. And your duck, if you have one.

So that brings us back to the whole “brand recognition” thing (apologies for the fact that I still don’t really have a non-gross word for that).

What you do want to do is get your name out there. You want people to remember your name — to remember your essence. Not a random amalgamation of letters that have no reason to stick in their head.

But you want to keep being you out loud. To keep reminding people that yeah, you’re there and you have a thing.

You know, like this:

“Hi. I’m Havi!

Or @havi if you’re a Twitter person. Kazoo!

No, it’s pronounced HA-vee. Pretend my name is Harvey and you have a Boston accent. Nice.

And this is my business partner. Her name is Selma. Yes, she is a duck.”

Well, maybe not really like that.

But the point is that if you are there and being all you-ish, and you show up even fairly regularly, you don’t have to keep bonking people over the head with an acronym that they will never remember anyway.

You hang out. You talk to people.

You find the ones you like.

Acronyms are empty. Words and names and ideas and conversations are what is memorable.

Unless, of course, you have a really good one that also sounds like a word. A word that means something and is actually related to what you do.

So if your thing is that you train dancing poodles, and your noozletter is called Poodle Operators On Delicate Little Equipment then maybe (but really probably not) you could make it work.

Because FDLFUA (friends don’t let friends use acronyms).

And … today’s hippie-ass Comment Zen (which I’m not calling CZ, because that would be confusing)

When I write a post which is funny or funny-ish (or — heaven forbid, tfu tfu tfu — sarcastic and a bit rant-ey), we tend to get a few “how dare you speak to me like that”s and “who do you think you are”s.

So: you don’t have to agree with me. I have no interest in dictating your personal experience of acronyms.

And you have choices. You can find someone whose sense of humor and self-expression is more to your liking. Or you can say, “Hey, sweetie. I have a different opinion on this.”

I just ask that you speak carefully, that you speak about your feelings and experiences instead of putting it all onto me, and that you try not to throw shoes.

In return, I commit to interacting with your ideas and with my own stuff as compassionately and honestly as is possible for me. Thanks!

The Fluent Self