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The benefits (and dangers) of abbreviations in business communication – #Rugby examples

In business communication we often have to make our points quickly – especially when we present to time-poor audiences.

Abbreviations (short forms) can help you communicate faster – but only IF your audience understands what the abbreviations mean.

This post was inspired by coverage of the recent Wallabies victory over Argentina (Pumas). Yes, I love watching the rugby!


A rugby writer “reporting live” referred to AAC – which is short for the player Adam Ashley-Cooper.

In rugby league there’s DCE – a short-form for Daly Cherry-Evans.

I reckon you know you’ve “made it” as a player when you get referred to by your own abbreviation.

You’ll note in these cases, the abbreviations are for players with hyphenated last names. My theory is that the abbreviation is in line with the Australian tendency to “simplify the fancy”.

O.K. back to business!

The benefits:

Abbreviations can have the dual benefits of being:

1. faster in taking up less time (in spoken form) and less space (in written form)
2. satisfying to those “in the know”. They can feel connected to the presenter because the audience and the presenter share a common “language”. There’s a connection.

To illustrate point 1. – saying or writing ACCC or A-triple C is a lot faster than using the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Imagine if AAC got a job with the ACCC!

The dangers: audience members who do NOT know what an expression means can:

1. not have a clue and “shut down” OR misunderstand the message
2. feel excluded and “shut down”

TB Lateline

When I coach business people on how to improve their business communication skills, I often recommend this technique.

1. If you think the majority of your audience will understand and “enjoy” the use of abbreviations – USE the abbreviations AND
2. In your first reference to an abbreviation – quickly explain what the abbreviation means.

In business, many abbreviations can mean different things for different industries. Even different parts of the same business can have different meanings for the same abbreviations.

For example, I remember hearing a speaker talk about “getting PR”.

From my media background, I thought PR meant public relations.

The speaker was taking about Permanent Residency.

Sometimes, context can help make the meaning clear.

Still, I encourage business presenters to get into the habit of explaining an abbreviation the first time you use it. Just in case, some members in the audience are not familiar with what an abbreviation means.

A business colleague told me that in meetings/presentations many people are reluctant to ask what something means for fear of being seen to not know something that others seem to know. They just nod their heads without really understanding what something means.

In Singapore (where I often work) they have a Singlish expression (Singaporean English) – “Catch no ball” – which means you don’t understand something.

To use a rugby comparison (as I often do) – using an abbreviation without explaining it is like throwing a bad pass. Your audience may not catch the ball.

AAC and DCE would not approve 🙂


rugby montage

If you are a business presenter OR sports person or sports official and you’d like to improve your presenting – I’d love to help. I admit that I can get carried away with my illustrative examples from Rugby League and Rugby Union. If you are a Rugby fan we will get on famously. If you are from a different sport and not a Rugby fan – I will do my best to use sporting examples YOU can enjoy and relate to.

In my journalism career, the most impressive sportspeople/ sports spokespeople I ever worked with were from Rugby Union and Swimming. Very professional communicators!


One comment on “The benefits (and dangers) of abbreviations in business communication – #Rugby examples

  1. efangelist
    November 19, 2016

    Reblogged this on efangelist.

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This entry was posted on July 27, 2015 by in Uncategorized.
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