A little over a year has passed since I started a little project called Spell It Out. I started the project when I started working at CloudBees. During my first few weeks there as I was learning about the different projects at various meetings, I observed that there was a frequent use of acronyms. Being the new guy, I didn’t interrupt the meetings because of my lack of knowledge of what an acronym meant, instead I would jot it down and either ask another team member what it meant or Google it.
Since running Spell It Out I’ve observed a few things around the use of acronyms.
First, it is totally ok to make someone pause and ask them to explain what an acronym means. I’m now on a different team at a different company and they have their own set of acronyms that they use. Now when I hear an acronym and aren’t sure what it means, I’ll usually ask what it means at the moment it is used. This usually leads to the person who used the acronym to be more than happy to explain what it stands for.
Second, I think most of the time the person who uses the acronym makes an assumption that it’s a commonly used acronym that the person hearing it should know it too. I don’t think it’s something that happens just with acronyms but in general. It reminds me of doctors. I’ve had doctors in the past blurt out a medical term for something I’m describing and look at you as if you’re supposed to know what it is.
I’m not sure if there is some correlation or if it’s a more generalized thing that humans do, but I’m observing that it happens outside of just acronyms.
Third, those who both uses and spells out an acronym in the same sentence are often seen as more inclusive. I remember being in meetings where people would use acronyms and no one pausing the speaker to ask what it meant. This would make me feel like I wasn’t on the inside or the know of things. When a speaker is able to both use and spell out an acronym I find them to be more caring and thoughful. And I appreciate it, even though they might be speaking to a group who might already know what the acronym means. I also don’t think anyone will scoff and be disgusted by someone who uses an acronym and also spells it out.
I’m not honestly not sure what I’ll add to Spell It Out to enhance it or make it better in the future. I know I have a desire to put context around acronyms so I might start there. For example the acronym GoF (Gang of Four) refers to the four authors who authored a book on design patterns in object-oriented programming.
I’ve also had an itch to put together an API to perhaps make a plugin that could be used to spell out acronyms as you find them when reading in your browser or computer.
What is sure is, I’ll keep curating and adding acronyms that I find almost daily to the growing list of acronyms on Spell It Out.
A few highlights since starting Spell It Out: