For the ❤️ of Abbreviations

Posted on February 15, 2022

For the love of abbreviation in a heart outline with JPW Communications logo to the right.

Today’s Morning Buzz is by Mary Elise Conzelmann, AKA – ME. She is a cyclist, tree hugger and wine enthusiast from Northern California. She serves the public sector as a communications, marketing and outreach consultant. Connect with Mary Elise on LinkedIn or by emailing 

XOXO fellow #GovLov fanatics!  

ICYMI: abbreviations, AKA acronyms and initialisms, are everywhere! We’re all guilty of using them to shorten phrases and communicate ‘easier’ and faster. However, TBH, they’re not always reader-friendly and often leave readers thinking “IDK what’s going on.” 


Government text conversation with public, using the confused emoji to describe the public reaction.


As government workers, we know abbreviations are overused in our profession. You have a program or committee, give it a catchy name and effortlessly refer to its abbreviation after announcing the full name and using it once at the top of an article. Sound familiar? LOL. Multiply an abbreviation mentality by the millions of government workers in federal, state and local entities, and you end up with “alphabet soup.”  


Bowl of soup with letters spelling 'You are Souper.'


Here are five quick reasons and resources on why you should reconsider abbreviations: 

1. Plain Language 

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires that federal agencies use clear government communication that the public can easily understand and use. The goal is to help people find what they need, understand what they find and use that to meet their needs.  

Learn tips for abbreviations on the Plain Language website. 

2. Trust and Transparency 

Are you an ‘insider’ if you know what an abbreviation stands for, and an ‘outsider’ if you don’t? When something is unclear, confusion, anger and distrust can creep in – which is exactly the opposite of what governments aim for.  

Read about the Government Finance Officers Association’s End the Acronym campaign to eliminate the use of a commonly-used acronym.   

3. Accessibility 

An abbreviation glossary at the end of a document doesn’t always do the trick. Nobody likes scrolling or flipping through pages, so the glossary is frequently glazed over. Additionally, screen readers generally do not recognize abbreviations. A screen reader might mispronounce a word. For example, the acronym Scope of Work can be said as “S O W,” or as “sow” (like planting a seed) – both of which do not communicate the meaning clearly. 

Explore W3C and its Understanding Success Criterion for acronyms. 

4. Translation 

Abbreviations create a bumpy road for translation services. Many online translation services need full words to comprehend and reform to the second language. There can also be variations in abbreviations from language to language. For example, NATO in English is translated to OTAN in French. Abbreviation translation mistakes can lead to manual corrections which increase incurred translation costs. 

Check and search for acronyms in English (Acronym Finder) and Spanish (Siglas). 

5. Memorable 

Not only are standalone letters confusing, but the meaning behind the full phrase gets diluted. We love the work we do for our communities. There’s a lot of time and effort that gets lost when you narrow it down to an emotionless abbreviation. Communicating government work is essential to showing the value of our services. We need memorable and clear communications, so people understand what’s going on in their community. 

See examples of famous brands using acronyms that you probably didn’t know the meaning of.  

Here’s your CTA: Be mindful in your communications and reevaluate the perceived benefit of abbreviations. Our goal is to make communication clear and inclusive, and abbreviations are just one piece of the puzzle. 

Questions or comments? HMU on LinkedIn or by emailing me at 


JPW Communications is an award-winning full-service communications, marketing and outreach firm laser-focused on the needs of government agencies. Our team’s passion for public service, groundbreaking creative ideas and unique acumen all stem from decades of first-hand experience in the public sector, making JPW Communications the leader in government communications.  

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