Acronyms should be DOA
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Section: News

By David Osborn, CBRE

Question: Which of the following are acronyms?
1. CIA
2. FBI

Answer: Technically, none of them are. They are all initialisms. While acronyms are comprised of initials which are spoken as words (SCUBA, IREM, BOMA), initialisms are initials spoken as each letter individually. So there is your “I’m smart” tidbit for the day. Now you can wow your friends and amaze your family with your inane knowledge of worthless trivia. No charge.

So why are we talking about acronyms? I propose that we all commit to limiting if not altogether eliminating the confounding use of acronyms and initialisms (in my vocabulary they are collectively called “acrolisms”) within our respective industries. I have received far too many e-mails (at least one) with a whole string of unknown acrolisms used by the writer purportedly with the goal of greater efficiency in conveying a thought. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get downright exhausted from actually typing the word “Tenant” rather than the very efficient initialism “TT” which is a standard shortening of the word in the commercial real estate industry. Or the related “LL” for Landlord. *Whew* I don’t know how I managed to type out those additional six letters spelling the whole word. 

Or perhaps it’s a time saver when speaking the initialism. Any initialism with a “W” in it (e.g. “VW”) probably uses more syllables (vee1 dub2-bul3-yu4) than just saying the word – in this case “Volkswagen” (voks1-wag2-en3). So is using an initialism really a time saver? I think not.

As I have proven, using initialisms certainly is not a guarantee of either writing or speaking more efficiently. Au contraire! So the only possible reason left for the use of such gimmicky language is merely for the satisfaction of the speaker/writer having the intent of confounding the innocent recipient of such non-sensical language. What we are left with is the deliberate and intentional attempt to elevate in stature one person over another. At my esteemed and internationally acclaimed commercial real estate company, it is the accountants in some far-off corner of the country who have nothing better to do than to try to add yet more acrolisms to their already significant lexicon of ridiculous accounting jargon. I would understand if said accountants used their geeky accounting lingo amongst themselves (“Did you see the outrageous QRD on that property’s FCS? I was like, OMG!”), but when it spills over into everyday e-mails (“Dear Ignorant REM*, I need your comments for the MNTHLY FCS and QTRLY FIA. The CFO needs to see them ASAP.”) I can decipher parts of this request, but certainly not the whole thing. 

Would it really be too inefficient to spell the whole word? I’ll wait the extra two seconds it would take to type it.