top of page
  • Writer's pictureHannah Rooke


Choose your words in wooden scrabble tiles sit on a white background

The world is full of acronyms, TLAs (three letter acronyms*) and abbreviations, and over the years I’ve been compiling my own dictionary (it’s extensive).

Is it just a personal passion project because I love words?


It's mainly because I hate the blasted things. I avoid them wherever possible, but I've made it my business to understand what they mean. Why?

Often, we get carried away with the trends in our own network, business or industry that we assume everyone knows what we’re talking about. They don’t. And that can alienate people - sales prevention technique 101. How can you effectively communicate with people if they haven't got a clue what you're saying?

Ironically, one of the worst offending sectors is marketing. I’ve seen so many people (newbies and experts) nodding in agreement but when asked to explain, couldn’t or had to hastily Google. The fear of appearing unknowledgeable only exacerbates the use of them as people assume they should use them to appear ‘in the know’. (There's a great BBC article discussing the wider use of jargon in different settings here including comments from Gretchen McCulloch, internet linguist and author of Because Internet.)

I’ve worked for acronym-rich businesses, sectors and industries and I'm usually the one stopping to ask the awkward question. It's not stupid to ask and learn, however, it is silly to carry on and save face. I ask so I can make sure I understand everything, that I’m doing what they’re asking, have all the relevant information and can share that information with the end user in the best possible way.

I’ve compiled my favourites below, in no particular order. Some you may know, others could be new to you:

OOO = out of office

OOH = out of home

TOV = tone of voice

SOW = statement of work

KYC = know your customer

FABs = features and benefits

POS (no, not that one!) = point of sale

COP/COB = close of play/close of business

RAMS = risk assessment and method statement

VHB = very high bond

TOC = table of contents

IOT = internet of things

SAAS = software as a service

COD = contracts of difference

RO = renewable obligations

BAU = business as usual

SAP = sustainability action plan

BIM = building information modelling

Any other interesting ones to add?

Fun facts: Acronym - initial letters from group of words make a new abbreviated word, and you pronounce the letters as a word, eg. IKEA, NATO, NASA.

Initialism - initials don't make up another word and you still pronounce the letters, eg. UN, BBC, WTF.

So all those *TLAs are really TLIs

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page