Archives for posts with tag: Jargon

The TLA – the three letter acronym which of course is itself a TLA – is shorthand, jargon that we can use in good ways and bad ways. It saves us time and effort, but is also something to hide behind and can exclude others.

I think how we use the term TLA varies between the spoken and written word. If the first letter of the TLA starts with a vowel sound, and is a consonant like the F of FAQ, we’re more likely to say ‘an FAQ’ when we’re talking. It’s easier and sounds better.

If we use a TLA in the written word, like in a report, then we’re likely not to use ‘an’ before a vowel-sounding TLA, as in ‘If you have a FAQ, please consult the FAQ section.’ Or are we?

This is where it gets ambiguous, when you’re in the realm of email, which is kind of written but kind of spoken too, or at least is the chattier form of the written word.

Essentially you as the writer are signalling to the reader whether you want them to read it as a TLA in their head or read it as the expanded phrase the TLA refers to. For example, the other day I received an emailed that closed with ‘… a MNC’, where MNC is a multinational company. For me the reader wants me to think ‘a multinational company’. If he had written an MNC, I think he would want me to think MNC, which also means multinational company.

Geddit? Too deep? Neither relevant nor interesting? To answer the title of the post, if you want your vowel-sounding TLA to be read as a TLA, use the ‘an’, otherwise don’t.

Then there’s the vowel-sounding TLA which begins with an actual vowel, like an OTC drug, which is a whole lot easier!


My word of the moment – as I write this, but not necessarily by the time you read this, such is the fickle mind – that I use a lot in business meetings is ‘dovetail’.

I like to use it with rather too many prepositions, for example ‘perhaps we should get that to dovetail in with the other initiative.’ Dovetail presents a nice image of two things coming together. It’s one of those coming together words that business is very fond off, like connecting, aligning, meshing with, joining up and so on.

Business loves to join things and people together, as it’s the very basis of human society and indeed of commerce. The joy of the fair exchange!

Which is why it’s such a lovely word for me. It’s the most picturesque word for describing bringing things together – or ‘pictureskew’ as my mother would say.