Yesterday, Sunday, 15th January 2021, once more, I gained new appreciation of the advice that my mentor gave me about the use of acronyms. I was watching an episode of “Who wants to be a millionaire?” on BBC Brit. The contestant was asked a question about what the “S” in UNESCO stands for. The options given for the contestant to choose from were:
I thought it to be an easy question for I assumed that no adult able to qualify to be a contestant on a general knowledge game show doesn’t know what UNESCO stands for. Well, the contestant wasn’t sure. She used one of her “lifelines” and called a friend. The friend also wasn’t sure, but guessed the answer to be “significant”.
The contestant continued to have doubts. She decided to use another of her “lifelines” and asked for help from the studio audience; I assume hundreds of people. I was shocked that only 39 percent of the studio audience knew the answer that the “S” in UNESCO stands for scientific.
My mentor’s advice to me is that if it is your intention to use an acronym in your text of speech, the first time that you use it, you MUST write it or say in in full. So, for example, if the acronym you want to use in your speech and writing is UNESCO. Then the first time you write it or say it you must do so in full: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
This incidence has confirmed my mentor’s wisdom that don’t ever assume that everyone one knows the acronym. Especially so if your text or speech is intended for you to pass an examination or to win a grant or to get your work published and other similar reasons that need you to effectively communicate.
Not writing and saying the acronym in full may result in you failing to communicate on grounds that the examiner or evaluator or audience doesn’t know what the full meaning of the acronym is. In some cases people cannot be bothered to do the extra work of looking it up.
Don’t take it for granted. Always demonstrate you knowledge by writing and saying in full acronyms that you use. Do so at least once in your text or speech and preferably the first time that you use the acronym in a text or speech.