Avoid Acronyms and Abbreviations

  • Acronyms and abbreviations are a convenience for writers, but a problem for readers and search engines.

    For instance, take a look at this list of acronyms:

    AACC
    ALI
    ALS
    ATO
    ATOD
    C-CAPS
    CDC
    CHSS
    CHWB

    COOE
    ECOBIT
    EET
    ELR
    FIUP
    HDES
    HPED
    HSS
    ILR

    MEDU
    MSG
    NSM
    OHRL
    OIA
    OIE
    PSE
    RAD
    RECHC

    RI
    RORB
    SAHE
    SBDC
    SBI
    SDC
    SI
    TBTG
    UBMS

    Every one of these was collected from IUP’s website. No doubt you’ll recognize a few. But do you understand all of them? If you didn’t work at IUP would you recognize any of them? If you want to keep multiple audiences in mind, you’ll want to avoid acronyms.

    Acronyms + Search Engines = Bad News

    Search engines make this problem worse. Imagine you run a center called the Center for Industrial Academics, or CIA. Now imagine someone searching Google or Bing for information on industrial academics. How likely are they to search for “CIA”? Aren’t they more likely to search for “industrial academics”?

    Conversely, how many people searching for “CIA” are actually looking for you? How many search engines are going to respond to a search for “CIA” with your page instead of one of the other CIAs?

    If You Must

    If you must use an acronym, handle as you would on paper: spell it out on the first usage on each page, then use the abbreviation thereafter. (Note the caveat “on each page”: remember, any page can be a landing page.

    Exceptions

    There are exceptions, most obviously IUP, which is defined at the top of every page on the website. The names of degrees (MBA, M.F.A., Ph.D.) are another. In general, any abbreviations you use should be in common use outside of IUP.