Business Acronyms: Know Them, Understand Them, But Maybe Don't Over-use Them
In the business world, boosting performance, streamlining, and making things more efficient is a top priority. So it’s no surprise that acronyms have really taken off in this environment. You’ll see the handy abbreviations everywhere, especially in emails, texts, and digital communications.
But how the heck are we supposed to stay on top of all the business acronyms out there? This guide to the time-saving acronyms most used in business will provide the 411 and keep you in the know. Let’s synergize.
What Are Professional Acronyms?
An acronym is a “clever” way of shortening a series of words into a single word to save space on the page. Unlike an abbreviation, which simply cuts part of the word out (for example, when “doctor” becomes “Dr.” or “company” becomes “Co.”), an acronym uses the first letters of each keyword in the phrasing or name.
Many companies and organizations use acronyms in their names. For instance, we all know that “FBI” stands for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In some cases, acronyms are so integral to branding, they’ve become more famous than the original name itself. Take BMW: everyone knows the luxury vehicle brand, but far fewer people know that its name stands for “Bayerische Motoren Werke”.
There are even words we use commonly today that actually originated as acronyms. Like scuba, which comes from “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus”. All that to say, acronyms surround us. Even IKEA is an acronym. We just thought it was some odd Swedish name—we learned this by playing a crossword this weekend, true story.
That being said, you don’t want to fall into the habit of going overboard with acronyms, particularly in a professional setting. Remember that composing an email that uses a ton of acronyms may save you time, but it also risks confusing your coworker who may not be as up-to-date on all the latest jargon. “FYI, we’ll need your AP report ASAP, or by EOD latest. LMK if that works.”
Yep. That might be overkill. If you find yourself explaining the acronyms you just used, guess what? They aren’t exactly saving you time. Make sure to use acronyms sparingly and with discretion—particularly the more obscure ones.
Informal Acronyms You Might Hear Around the Office
Whether reading an email memo or perusing social media websites, there’s a high chance you’ll come across an acronym. We all know “LOL”—the famously catchy replacement for “hahaha”—but today there are tons of informal business and social acronyms peppered throughout our digital (and even in-person) communications. Here are some of the essential acronyms you should know and start using.
- ASAP: As soon as possible
- DM: Direct message (or direct mail, depending on the platform)
- EOD: End of day
- ETA: Estimated time of arrival
- FYI: For your information
- IAM: In a meeting
- IMO: In my opinion
- NRN: No reply necessary
- NSFW: Not safe for work
- LMK: Let me know
- TBD: To be determined
- TL;DR: Too long, didn’t read
- TMI: Too much information
- WFH: Work from home
There are some good ones there. Although we wish more people used NRN.
Common Business Acronyms
It sometimes feels like you have to learn a whole new language to enter the business world. And it’s kind of true. There is a ton of business terminology you have to know in order to communicate clearly, whether you’re in sales, human resources, or marketing. Notably, there are many acronyms in the ABCs of business. Acronyms like B2B, KPI, and SEO are actually used more frequently than the words they stand for, so it’s important to know what they mean.
- B2B: Business to business
- B2C: Business to consumer
- COB: Close of business
- CTA: Call to action
- CV: Curriculum vitae
- CRM: Customer relationship management
- FTE: Full-time employee
- KPI: Key performance indicator
- OOO: Out of office
- PTE: Part-time employee
- PTO: Paid time off
- SaaS: Software as a service
- SEO: Search engine optimization
- SME: Small to medium enterprise (or SMB for small to medium business)
- SME: Subject matter expert (yep, two for the price of one with SME)
- TOS: Terms of service
- WOMM: Word of mouth marketing
H2: Job Titles and Departments
When we talk about using acronyms sparingly, it’s safe to say job titles are exempt. Using well-known acronyms for a job title or department is perfectly acceptable and saves everyone time. Let’s be real: Chief Executive Officer is an eight-syllable mouthful, whereas three-syllable CEO rolls off the tongue. Here are some other key job titles and department acronyms to know:
- BD: Business development
- BOD: Board of directors
- CEO: Chief executive officer
- CFO: Chief financial officer
- CMO: Chief marketing officer
- COO: Chief operating officer
- CPA: Certified public accountant
- CTO: Chief technology officer
- HR: Human resources (shoutout to Toby (https://tenor.com/view/toby-the-office-michael-scott-michael-and-toby-gif-19505016))
- IT: Information technology
- PM: Project manager
- PR: Public relations
- R&D: Research and development
- VP: Vice president
Finance and Accounting Acronyms
If business had its own language, finance and accounting have their own dialect. To an outsider, it can be daunting. Assets, cash flow, compound annual growth rates. It’s a lot. But the jargon-filled department has, to its credit, streamlined many terms to speed up communications. Acronyms are integral to finance and accounting vocabulary, so it’s important to be brushed up on the most common ones.
- AP: Accounts payable
- AR: Accounts receivable
- CAGR: Compound annual growth rate
- CF: Cash flow
- COGS: Cost of goods sold
- CPU: Cost per unit
- EPS: Earnings per share
- IPO: Initial public offering
- MOM: Month Over Month
- P/E: Price to Earnings
- P&L: Profit and Loss
- ROA: Return on Assets
- ROI: Return on Investment
- YOY: Year Over Year
Truth be told, there are hundreds of technical acronyms out there, and no one would expect you to know them all (unless you’re in IT). But the following selection is used consistently across virtually all businesses and even those not in technical departments would be expected to know them. So, without further ado, here are some of the most popular technical acronyms used in business.
- API: Application program interface
- CPU: Central processing unit
- CSS: Cascading style sheet
- IP: Internet protocol (depending on the context, IP can also stand for intellectual property)
- ISP: Internet service provider
- OS: Operating system
- QA: Quality assurance
- UI: User interface
- UX: User experience
For the OOO Days
There’s one other very important business acronym we want to give a special shout-out to. The OG. The real deal. The iconic: TGIF. It marks the end of a business work week and the start of the weekend. Everyone knows it and everyone loves it. Like TGIF, Mizzen+Main is there to help you transition from the office to OOO. Specifically, we’ve got you covered on the fashion front. Check out our selection of great looks perfect to take you from the office to your relaxing resort getaway or weekend golf trip.