Wednesday, September 12, 2007

weekly writing coach: dnt abbrev.

That's short for "don't abbreviate," inspired this week by a study reported in the Washington Post about medical errors resulting from misreads of abbreviated terms. Of 30,000 errors reported to a national database--some fatal--five percent involved shorthand or abbreviations. A hospital accreditation board "recommends that doctors jettison some such abbreviations and instead write out the full word." We say the same goes for you: Ban abbreviations and avoid acronyms while you're at it. Acronyms have lost their utility, as more and more organizations arise with the same initials. (Want to find out just how many groups are using the same acronym? See our previous post on the Acronym Finder here.) And abbreviated terms make too many assumptions about your readership. To ensure maximum clarity, spell it out--or find something other than initials to substitute as a short second reference.

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