12 Apr

Speaking in code

The ETA for the BFG is still TBC, due to an RTA with the OCG.

WTF am I on about?
Good question.

Well, that first line could be straight out of the TV series Line of Duty – a cracking programme with a sometimes baffling script.

Acronyms and initialisms from the series – some said as words, some as just their initials – include CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Source), MIT (Murder Investigation Team), OCG (Organised Crime Group), SOCO (Scene of Crime Officer), FLO (Family Liaison Officer), ARV (Armed Response Vehicle), DIR (Digital Interview Recorder), NCS (National Crime Squad), SIO (Senior Investigating Officer).

The problem is, talking in these terms makes the programme, at times, incomprehensible.
You have to look up the terms at the end of the show – maybe go on a fans forum.
But, the terminology has to be in there to lend some authenticity to the script: this is how police officers – particularly ones investigating corruption – actually talk. If they said all of the words for each acronym and initialism, they’d never get any work done.

Teaching is similar, as a profession – full of ‘teacher lingo’, acronyms, and abbreviations.

So, for both professions this terminology works – and it certainly works on a programme about police anti-corruption.

But using ‘in terms’ and industry lingo doesn’t work when you want to communicate with the lay person.
I came across a job description recently and, based on the first three paragraphs, I didn’t have a clue what the company did or what the job was about: the whole thing was written in industry terms and obscure corporate jargon.
They lost me, as a candidate, and I could’ve been perfect for that role.
I wonder how many people felt the same – how many other candidates they lost.

I often see content written in the same way, padded out with waffle about offering ‘innovative solutions’.

Does your industry use specific terminology, acronyms, and abbreviations? Does everyone understand them, including Joe Public?
If not, it’s probably best not to use them in your copy or content – you want it to be understood by the many, not the few (I sound like a Labour campaign). You want to avoid baffling people.
Ultimately, they do the opposite of what you think: they don’t speed the copy up, they slow it down as people fumble and faff, looking up what an ‘FTS’ is… or worse still, they give up and close the page/tab/booklet.

Acronyms are best left to fast-paced TV shows, where talk is quick and slick.

And remember, using TLAs when WFH can cause the ETA to be delayed to COP, while the DVLA call the RAC to report an STD… or something like that.



Screenshot 2021-04-12 at 14.45.51

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