Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Common abbreviations in Business English: e.g., i.e., fyi, CIO, KM... OK?

There are thousands of abbreviations in common use, and with the increased use of computer technology, social media (such as chatting) and the proliferation of organisations, legislation and professional jargon, the number of acronyms and shortened forms of words and expressions that you need to know can seem mind-boggling (totally confusing).

Here’s a selection of some of the more useful ones, which I have organised according to topic. Hope you find them useful.


Writing and email

Perhaps the most common – and yet (certainly for Italian people learning English) the most confusing abbreviations – are e.g. and i.e..

E.g. means “for example”. (Why? Well, that’s because it’s really the initials of the Latin expression “exemplii gratia” – for the sake of example.)

I.e. means “that is” (Italian cio√®). (Latin again: id est).

When you send someone an email you can “cc” another person or “copy them in” to the email. Cc means “carbon copy”, a reference to old-fashioned carbon paper used to make copies of a letter while writing them on a typewriter. If you don’t want someone to know that you are copying a third person in, then use “bcc” or “blind carbon copy”.

Digital technology, including the internet, has led to the creation of a huge number of abbreviations, especially as typed or texted forms of real-time communication, such as online chat, internet messaging (IM) and texting (SMS) have gained popularity. Some of the more familiar acronyms from these media include:

FYI = For Your Information. This is typically used when you want to send someone an interesting link you have found, but one which doesn’t require a lengthy (long) introduction.

IMHO – In my humble opinion (used when you express a personal opinion that could be considered arrogant or controversial. It shows that you are aware of this implication.)

LOL – Laugh(s) out loud – This type of digital shorthand (steno) for reactions and emotions has developed due to the often colourless or anonymous nature of online chat.

BTW – By the way – indicates a change of subject or the introduction of an incidental fact.
(btw you can find one of the best online collections of online acronyms and jargon – some of them very funny – on netlingo.com, the internet dictionary. One of my favourites is the term used by IT support staff to indicate that there they cannot find a technical fault: PEBCAK – Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard.)

Texting, also known as SMS (Short Message Service) requires the writer to compress a lot of information into as small a space as possible. This has led to a modern form of highly-condensed writing, sometimes surprisingly imaginative.

B4 = before
L8r = later
CU = See you
(Which produces: CU l8r = See you later)


Business Acronyms

There are also thousands of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) used in everyday Business English. Here’s a selection of some of the more useful ones:

People / job titles


CEO = Chief Executive Officer
CFO = Chief Financial Officer
CIO = Chief Information Officer
MD = Managing Director
PRO = Public Relations Officer


Other business acronyms


VAT = Value Added Tax (IVA) (recently raised in the UK form 17.5% to 20%)

P&L = Profit & Loss account / statement (one of the financial statements a company has to produce)

KPI = Key Performance Indicators – measurements used to evaluate how well a team or firm is performing

KM = Knowledge Management – a strategic approach to insights undertaken by companies

RRP = Recommended Retail Price – the price customers should pay suggested by the manufacturer

I hope you find these abbreviations useful. If anyone would like to know the meaning of other common business acronyms – or if you have found an acronym that you want to share with other people, visit the Milan Business English Network on Facebook or add a comment here.

1 comment:

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    ReplyDelete