Denny's Daily Zinger: Sloppy Users of Abbreviations and Acronyms
I don't know what I think about genetically modified foods. I read somewhere they will save the planet from universal starvation. Or do they violate God's plan, and are they dangerous?
I figured I could get up to speed on the subject in a story in The Wall Street Journal last Thursday by Annie Gasparro and Jacob Bunge:
Throughout the story the writers kept using the term "GMO."
"GM" stands for "genetically modified."
"What's the "O"?
Nowhere in the story was "GMO" defined.
I got totally sidetracked searching all over the Internet for GMO.
About Abbreviations and Acronyms
Universally understood abbreviations and acronyms are okay to use without explanation: U.N., ATM, FYI, NBC, NATO, PIN, D-Day, PR, P.S., etc.
With an unfamiliar term such as "GMO," two thoughts:
- If all your readers are farmers and scientists it's okay to use GMO.
- If your writing is for non-experts, it's rude to use an unfamiliar abbreviation and not define it.
- Even if defined at first usage, it's equally rude to spring it on the reader 30 pages later without a reminder of what it stands for. The reader is forced to stop reading and go look for the definition. Concentration is broken and the reader feels like a dope.
Takeaways to Consider
- Annie Gasparro and Jacob Bunge are sloppy journalists who don't think of their readers.
- Their Wall Street Journal editor is incompetent.
- We are all a mouse-click away from oblivion.
- The "O" stands for organism.
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