• Katrien


Updated: Aug 22, 2021

Do acronyms also make you cringe? Not everybody is an expert in decoding a string of letters that leave most readers mystified. The number of acronyms you master is never an indication of your level of expertise. To the contrary!

Chance is, an overuse of LOL, ROFLOL, ROTFLMAOWPIMP and LSHMBH will put your readers to sleep and they won’t read beyond the first three lines.

I believe it borders on arrogance to assume that all your readers have given up on communication with real words and sentences. They should not have to rely on an “acronym dictionary” to decipher your gobbledygook.


Acronyms are not always frowned upon. In technical or academic writing you often have to refer to long names over and over again. That’s why most publishers have developed clear rules about abbreviations. The first time a term is used, it should be expanded, followed by the abbreviation of the term in brackets. For example, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Subsequent usages of the term should be abbreviated, e.g. NATO.

Personal writing is obviously not restricted by such rules. But before you decide to overwhelm your audience with a secret language, think twice. No matter how familiar you are with your subject field, you actually want to engage the reader. “The advantage of the LH was clear from the RT data, which reflected high FP and FN rates for the RH,” is not going to cut the mustard.

So the next time you write a bog, article, report or thesis, keep the following rules in mind if you want to grab your readers’ attention:

- Less is more.

- Abuse will lead to confusion.

- Know your audience.

- Put the reader first.

- In case of formal writing, follow the rules.

And last but not least, remember that PCMCIA - people can’t master computer industry acronyms.

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My most recent proofread was a thesis of well over 70,000 words – 211 pages of well-written text on an interesting topic, the proud product of years of original research, a very enjoyable proofread. I