Which is more common: National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA? Program for International Student Assessment is better known as PISA. And Fédération Internationale de Football Association is a household name under FIFA . Today's article shows when acronyms are useful.
Acronyms are abbreviations made up of the first letters of several words. They form an abbreviation. They are either spelled out (PKW, EDV) or spoken like complete words (GEMA) – with the exception of a few mixed forms
A special form of acronyms is, for example, the apronym. This is a term that already exists in the vocabulary. An example: The abbreviation "Daisy" describes the "Dynamic Information System".
Another variation of acronyms is the backronym. In this case, the order of creation changes. So the abbreviation was there first. The individual terms were then assigned to the letters. This is also the case with the “SOS” example. Later this abbreviation was given the meaning “Save our Souls”.
The recursive acronym refers to itself in terms of content. In this case, your own abbreviation is part of the spelled out word. You can see this best with an example: The terms “Visa International Service Association” are hidden behind the abbreviation “VISA”.
The syllable abbreviation is also a special form of acronyms. The abbreviation does not consist of the first letters. The short syllable word is formed by the initial syllables of the individual terms. Examples that you know for sure are the abbreviation “Kita” for day care center or “Kripo” for criminal police.
They simplify names of certain organizations or companies and abbreviate long terms and words. This not only facilitates communication, but also understanding.
When character-restricted text messaging (SMS) existed, many new acronyms emerged. Mainly influenced by Anglo-Saxon vocabulary. These acronyms are now used in everyday language :
On the one hand: they are more pleasant and quicker to read than their namesakes. They shorten excessive terms and shorten long expressions as simply as possible. This saves time when writing and reading and improves the flow of reading. Because that's the only way our eyes don't bump over the General German Automobile Club again and again , but take in ADAC at a glance and we're glad that there isn't a long-winded and difficult term here, but one that is an acronym that makes it easy to understand.
This works if the reader is familiar with the acronyms used. Or to put it another way: if the writer and reader have the same background, i.e. act "on an equal footing". Only then does the short form gain in speed compared to the actual designation.
Example WLAN: Who can think of the long form ( Wireless Local Area Network) ? Do we always have the translation from English ready? Not necessarily! And yet we can definitely relate to this acronym. We understand what it means to us. From our own, everyday experience: Where WLAN is promised, we know that we can expect wireless Internet access.
But there are also abbreviations where it is not immediately clear what they mean. Because they come from areas that not everyone has insight into, for example. It becomes problematic when people who are not familiar with the subject are suddenly confronted with it. For example when buying a car: APS? WFS? If one helps with a sensor against parking bumps (automatic parking system), everyone else apart from the owner should ideally not be able to do anything with the car (immobilizer). Except for the specialist, to whom is that immediately clear?
Remember, acronyms make sense when they're common and well-known. And you can be sure that the reader will understand them.
Acronyms are useful when they match the vocabulary of your target audience. They limit an otherwise excessive string of (technically) complicated terms to a minimum. However, they should never disturb the reading flow - if acronyms occur in an unnatural number in the text.
For comparison: It is considered linguistically acceptable and understandable if there is no more than one acronym per paragraph of text . It is important to orientate oneself to language standards that aim for a broadly understandable maximum. Like in the news, for example: Here the speaker reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and would rarely name one or the other term alone.
They often have four syllables and are mostly capitalized. How so? There is no clear rule for this, instead all sorts of assumptions. For example one of these: To separate the abbreviation from other short syllable words that are not an acronym.
This applies to NATO or general terms and conditions, but motor vehicles unfortunately already nullify this assumption. Or another: If an acronym can be counted as part of the fixed language usage, it is written in lower case rather than in upper case. However, the Duden only knows the postal code for the postal code. In addition, there are definitely writing alternatives. For example, the Duden for NATO also allows the spelling Nato. The following applies: to orientate yourself on the common spellings and recommendations .
... invent acronyms themselves in order to then use them to advertise in a striking way. The risk of confusion is too great - and a new word is sometimes difficult to explain. Can the reader follow the thought? If it leads to the meaningless statement: hands off! If so, then you should use existing acronyms that are well-established in speaking and reading culture.
Exception for internal use: sometimes a project can be made more tangible more quickly with an acronym. But only if it's catchy and short enough. However, you should protect yourself from giving each new project an acronym companion. Because the appropriate and clear renaming is not that easy. And takes time.
Track down the familiar language environment of your target group. And think about it: Does the acronym used leave the language horizon or is it understandable because it is common? Write only what is understood.