Tag Archives: careers

In praise of the TLA or three-letter acronym: Abbreviation tips for the modern offices

According to the Urban Dictionary, ‘A TLA is a three-letter acronym for three-letter acronyms.’

If you’re saying: ‘WFT – CBA TBH.’ you’re already an advanced practitioner of the TLA.
If you’re still confused, a TLA is the first three letters of a three letter phrase. The above example actually means: ‘What the f***? Can’t be arsed, to be honest.’

Let’s see why we think, read and speak in threes.

History

Pythagoras said the number 3 was the noblest of all digits.

And who are we to argue? We don’t have (1) the knowledge, (2) the inclination or (3) the space to take issue with a great mathematician.

The Romans said: ‘Omne trium perfectum’ which means ‘Everything in threes is perfect’. Well, it was until I translated it and made it five.

The Rule of Three is also accepted in Riting & Reading as well as Rithmetic.

‘Blood, sweat and tears’. ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’. ‘F*** This S***’.

three-amigos

The Three Amigos is one of the top 10 films starring three comedians wearing massive sombreros

‘Sex, Lies & Videotape’. ‘The Three Amigos’. ‘Police Academy III’.

Four Little Pigs would lose its artistic tension. Goldilocks & The Two Bears would leave too much porridge. The One Stooge would be funny – but not hilarious.

Threes are best. But they’re rubbish when repeated

Location, location, location is bad telly.

Education, education, education is Blair’s boring politics.

www is really difficult to say. Don’t like difficult.

More about www

www is in a class of its own. It is the longest possible TLA to pronounce – at nine syllables.

In 1999, Douglas Adams said: ‘The world wide web is the only thing I know of whose shortened form takes three times longer to say than what it’s short for.’

Tragically, Douglas died before the www prefix started dying out itself.

More about TLAs

The number of possible three-letter abbreviations using the 26 letters of the alphabet from A to Z (AAA, AAB to ZZY, ZZZ) = 26×26×26 = 17,576.

But there are already duplicates like STD being a dialling code and a dirty disease. So in theory we could be looking at hundreds of thousands.

TLAs for the modern office

Luckily for you, I’ve culled the list to include only the most necessary TLAs in the modern office.

In my 20 years of working in an office, I’ve often heard TLAs tripping off other people’s tongues like renegade spit – but not having a clue what they’re on about.

So I hope this will provide a handy reference for when you’re stuck.

I’ve also included some XTLAs. XTLAs are extended TLAs, like WYSIWYG, which means ‘What you see is what you get’ that are longer than three letters.)

On balance, you’ve come off lightly with a list of around 150.

An A to Z of office TLAs (with some random other ones sprinkled in to keep morale up.)

ABH Actual bodily harm
AGM Annual general meeting
AKA Also known as
AOB Any other business
API Application programming interface
APR Annual percentage rate
ARPU Average revenue per user
ASAP As soon as possible
ATM At the moment / Automatic teller machine

BAC Blood alcohol content
BAU Business as usual
BCC Blind carbon copy
BEM Bug-eyed monster
BFG Big Friendly Giant
BFN Bye for now
BTW By the way
B2B Business to business
B2C Business to consumer

CAD Computer-aided design
CAPEX Capital expenditure
CBA Can’t be arsed
CEO Chief executive officer ( Exchange the middle letter as follows I information, M marketing, T technology, O operating, F finance)
COB Close of business
COD Cash on delivery
COP Close of play
CPS Crown Prosecution Service
CRM Customer relationship management
CTA Call to action

DIY Do it yourself
DNS Domain name server
DOA Dead on arrival
DOB Date of birth
DOJ Drunk on job
DOM Dirty old man
DOS Disk operating system
DPI Dots per inch

EBITDA Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation
ELO Electric Light Orchestra
EOD Every other day / End of day
EOP End of play
ETA Estimated time of arrival
ETD Estimated time of departure

FAQ(s) Frequently asked question(s)
FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation
FDR Franklin Delano Roosevelt
FOC Free of charge
FTP File transfer protocol
FSM Flying Spaghetti Monster
FUBAR F***ed up beyond all repair
FYC Fine Young Cannibals
FYI For your information

GBH Grievous bodily harm
GDP Gross domestic product
GHQ General headquarters
GMT Greenwich Mean Time
GNG Go – no go (This is an example of unacceptable office jargon.)
GNP Gross national product
GPS Global positioning system

HCF Highest common factor
HGV Heavy goods vehicle
HRH His/Her Royal Highness
HWM High water mark
HR Human resources
HQ Headquarters

ICU Intensive care unit
IOU IOU
IPO Initial public offering
ISA Individual savings account
ISP Internet service provider
IUD Intra-uterine device

JIT Just in time
JFDI Just f***ing do it

KFC Kentucky Fried Chicken
KPI Key performance indicator

LOL doesn't mean 'Lots of love'.

LOL doesn’t mean ‘Lots of love’.

LBW Leg before wicket
LCD Liquid crystal display / Lowest common denominator
LCM Lowest common multiple
LIFO Last in first out
LOL Laugh out loud. (Not lots of love. You could get into trouble if you use LOL when something tragic has happened.)

MPB Male pattern baldness
MPC Marginal propensity to consume
MPG Miles per gallon
MPH Miles per hour
MSG Mono sodium glutamate

NBG No bloody good
NBI Nothing but initials
NDA Non-disclosure agreement
NFG No f***ing good
NIC National Insurance contribution(s)
NSA No strings attached

OED Oxford English Dictionary
OMG Oh my god
ONO Or nearest offer
OOO Out of office
OOP Out of pocket
OPEX Operational expenditure
OTC Over the counter
OTT Over the top
OXO Gravy granules

P&L Profit & loss
PCM Please call me / Per calendar month
PDA Public display (of) affection
PDF Portable document format
PDQ Pretty damned quick
PFI Private Finance Initiative
PIN Personal identification number
PLC Public limited company
PMO Project management office / Program management office
POD Pay on delivery
POS Point of sale / Piece of s**t
PPC Pay per click
PPE Politics, philosophy and economics (what the Cabinet did at Oxford)
PSA Pleasant Sunday afternoon
PTC Propensity to call / churn / cry
PTO Please turn over

QED Quod erat demonstrandum (‘Which had to be demonstrated’)
QTD Quarter to date
QC Quality control

R&D Research & development
REM Rapid eye movement / Band name
RFP Request for proposal
RIP Requiescat in pace (‘May (s)he rest in peace’)
ROI Return on investment / Republic of Ireland
RPI Retail price index
RRP Recommended retail price
RSI Repetitive strain injury
RTFM Read the F***ing manual (particularly used by IT support staff)

SAE Stamped, addressed envelope
SBD Silent but deadly
SEO Search engine optimisation
SEP Someone else’s problem
SFA Sweet Fanny Adams / Sweet f*** all
SLA Service level agreement
SNAFU Situation Normal: All F***d Up
SOB Shortness of breath / Son of a bitch / Standard operating bullsh*t
SPOC Single point of contact:
STD Sexually transmitted disease / Subscriber trunk dialling
STFU Shut the f*** up
SWF Single white female

TBA To be announced
TBC To be confirmed
TBH To be honest
TLA Three-letter acronym /Three-letter abbreviation
TLC Tender loving care
TPA Tissue plasminogen activator
TTFN Ta ta for now

UHT Ultra heat treated
URL Uniform resource locator
USC Up shit creek
USCWAP Up shit creek without a paddle
USP Unique selling point
UTC Under the counter

VAT Value-added tax

WFH Work from home
WRT With respect to
WTF What the f***
WYSIAWYG What you see is almost what you get
WYSIWYG What you see is what you get
WYSINWNWYG What you see is nowhere near what you get
WYSINWYG What you see is not what you get
WYTYSYDG What you thought you saw, you didn’t get

YTD Year to date
YOLO You only live once
YOY Year on year

If you’ve made it this far, I’m astonished. You have character, commitment and probably too much time on your hands.

Feel free to send any favourite work-based TLAs for me to add to the list. And I hope you’ll start making your own.

Fun with TLAs?

I recently got my girlfriend to ask the waiter for a KBG. He looked at her blankly. KBG in my world at that moment meant ‘KnickerBockerGlory’. It meant nothing to him.

To add insult to injury, they’d stopped serving. So I didn’t even get a NBC (nice black coffee). Still, we left him a DST (decent-sized tip) anyway.

You see the fun you can have with TLAs? It’s especially good if you don’t get out much.

With thanks to Briony Wilson and Tallulah Godivala.

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Verbal tics, cliches and catchphrases – to be brutally honest they’re basically not alrighty

Office Space

Office Space: It would be just great to watch it again. Nice matching tie and braces

If you don’t want to be despised by your colleagues in the office, it’s probably best not to say ‘Yeah?’ really aggressively at the end of each sentence.

You’ll find they say ‘No’ to you quite a lot.

Saying ‘to be honest’ to your partner may arouse the suspicion that you’re not 100% trustworthy.

Saying ‘Exactamundo’ whenever you agree with your boss will not help your chances of promotion. Not exactly the best way to advance your career.

Verbal tics are everywhere and most of us use them. Lots. More than we realise.

So here’s a list of those you may want to avoid if you want a more successful career and a more stable personal life.

My definition of a verbal tic is: ‘A word or phrase repeated unconsciously to the potential annoyance of the listener.’

See how many you recognise or – worse – use yourself. Then read on for tips on how to reduce your Verbal Tic Count – and enjoy a better life.

I’ve ignored TLAs (three letter acronyms) like LOL, WTF and TBH as well as most catchphrases from TV and film. I plan to dig these rich seams in a later post.

And I’m not talking about people who suffer from disorders like Tourette’s. I’m talking about those of us lucky enough to be able to control what we say – but just don’t bother.

The list of shame is this way

Actually – Means nothing, actually.

Alrighty – Okay for Flanders or Ace Ventura. Not okay for real people. Ever.

Am I right or am I wrong? and Am I right or am I right? – After several minutes expounding a point, the speaker uses either of these tics, not as a question, but as a statement that they are indeed right.

And so on and so forth – You could just say ‘et cetera’ and save four words.

And what have you – This begs the question: ‘What have I?’. Again ‘et cetera’ saves time.

And what not – Ditto.

As far as I know – Surely implied in whatever you say without you spelling it out?

As I said before – Tip: You probably don’t want to remind your listener that you repeat yourself.

As you said or Like you said – Sycophantic and grating when used more than once in a conversation.

At the end of the day – Classic cliché. ‘At the end of the day it gets dark.’

Lego

LEGO is awesome. Saying ‘awesome’ in an office should be a sackable offence

Awesome – Yes we all love LEGO. But use this if you’re over 13 and you won’t be loved.

Basically – Classic filler. ‘Basically’ just adds three syllables to your sentence, basically.

Cool – Was cool in the 70s for a bit. Great, Super and Magic fit into this category too. Reminders of the Bee Gees aren’t good.

Don’t mean to be rude / disrespectful / awful … – Yes, we’re all just waiting for the but aren’t we?

Do you hear me? – Aggressive and likely to make your listener stop hearing anything you ever say again.

Do you understand? – Ditto. Only worse.

Dunno – The teenager’s answer to 97% of questions. Forgiveable in teenagers. Unforgivable if you aspire to be an intelligent, mature, reasonable person.

Eh? – Used at the end of a sentence is extremely annoying. Isn’t it, eh?

Enjoy! – It’s likely they won’t after you’ve said this.

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera – Used to cover ignorance. You don’t actually have other examples to bolster your argument, do you? Fine if you’re quoting from The
King And I, though.

Exactly or Exactamundo – Used instead of ‘Yes’ to emphasise agreement. ‘Yes’ is better. In the same category as Perfectamundo and Correctamundo.

Friend – Doesn’t really mean ‘friend’ at all – and is much slimier than the more neutral salutation tic, ‘mate’.

F**ing – I have actually heard people say: ‘F***ing. I f***ing went this f***ing morning and I’m f***ed if I’m f***ing going this afterf***ingnoon.” Overuse destroys
the effect of this otherwise excellent word.

Frankly – Similar to ‘honestly’, but possibly even more insincere.

Hello? – As in ‘Hello? Is anyone at home?’ Aggressive and likely to ensure no-one’s in.

Honestly – So your other comments are dishonest?

Um and ah, erm – Classic tics. The majority of us use them when we’re thinking of a word or phrase. You could try to replace them with nothing. Silence is wonderful. Awkward silence is even better.

Innit / Innit tho’ – Urban slang deriving from ‘Isn’t it?’ and ‘Isn’t it though?’ Pretty ugly, innit though?

It is what it is – What? Of course it is, or else it would be something else, wouldn’t it?

Know what I’m saying? – It’s not a question is it? It’s just a tic, know what I’m saying?

Know what I mean? – No I probably don’t. Popularised by Frank ‘Know what I mean, Harry?’ Bruno. Nice chap, but not really a conversational role model.

Newcastle Brown Ale, like

Newcastle Brown Ale, like

Like – The habit of repeating this word several times in a sentence gained notoriety in Beverley Hills 90210. Only acceptable when used in a Geordie accent. ‘Get us a
brown ale, like’ sounds absolutely splendid, like.

Literally – As in ‘You could literally knock me down with a feather’. ‘Literally’ expands sentences with redundant syllables that make you sound very silly.

Listen or Look – Patronising attempt to control a conversation. First popularised in the UK by the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, attempting to sound sincere when he didn’t believe a word of what he was saying.

Myself – Used instead of I. ‘Myself and Steve will be taking questions.’ Gulp.

… Not, as used in Wayne’s World – ‘We’ve hit all our sales targets … not’ isn’t very professional. No wonder you’re in trouble.

Not a problem / Not an issue / No probs – Lazy Customer Service speak. On the plus side, ‘Not an issue’ rhymes with ‘Mogadishu’.

Right? – It’s not a question. Just an annoyance – a patronising, insulting annoyance, right?

So (at the start of a sentence) – ‘So’ is a conjunction, so it begs for something before it to make sense of what comes next. Use it to introduce a new concept or argument and you are being so annoying.

Sort of / Sorta – Doesn’t add anything to what you’re saying: ‘Are you OK?’ ‘I’ve got a sorta headache.’ Unless a sorta headache is a type of migraine. Dunno.

That would be great – Used by bosses favouring the passive-aggressive Just F***ing Do It management technique. It would be great if you watched Office Space.

The thing is – Usually a prelude to bad news.

Think about it – Implying that unless you tell me to think, I won’t actually do it myself.

To be honest – Implying the things you say without this tic are lies.

To be brutally honest – Implying the other things you say are particularly dishonest.

Trust me – Is unlikely to bolster the listener’s confidence in you.

Yeah? – When said aggressively at the end of a sentence will make your listener think ‘No’.

You know? or Y’ know? – Even if I did know, you’re not really asking me. You’re just padding out your sentence, you know?

We are where we are – See ‘It is what it is’.

Whatever – Thankfully waning but sometimes reappears in the mouths of bosses who are trying and abysmally failing to be ‘cool’. Accompanied by the two thumb and index finger ‘W’ sign. You really don’t want to be like them, do you? The answer is No.

End of the List of Shame

So now you’re thoroughly ashamed at how many you use, what can you do to stop yourself?

Some people say you should record yourself when you do a speech or a presentation. That sounds boring and hard work.

You could just accept that’s the way things are. This is more likely – but you’re better than that. You’re reading this blog, so you’re an intelligent, reflective, thoughtful person.

The third thing to consider is Mindfulness.

Instead of yabbering on mindlessly, you could try to be more conscious of what you’re saying.

Then, when you’re about to say ‘To be brutally honest it’s like literally awesome’, you may just keep your mouth shut instead. Silence is golden.

And if you can’t be bothered with that, you can have good fun counting the number of times other people use their favourite tics. Tic Tac Toe as a fun alternative to office Buzzword Bingo.

Awesome

“Take it offline – you’re being transitioned.” An A to Z of office jargon for 2014

Since I wrote this, I’ve collected an A-Z of office jargon. You may just want to go there.

If not, I hope you’l enjoy this first attempt to collect these horrible words.


Almost everyone hates jargon, according to a recent survey by the

People clearly need to re-baseline their expectations – going forward.

Jargon, gibberish, gobbledygook and plain, old-fashioned bull are here to stay in the modern office.

So here’s  an A to Z to help you navigate the Wonderful World of Weird Wasted Words.

It has gaps (See N – Negative Space).  If I couldn’t think of something good or funny, I just didn’t write anything.

This, I’ve found, is a really good line to live by. I’ve also provided some commentary on the jargon. You’ll find it’s pretty positive.

A: Action – When used as a verb this makes me want to action an immediate voiding of my bowels.

B: Basis – As in ‘weekly basis’. Why not ‘every week’? Even if you’re feeling weak. I am – and we’ve only reached ‘B’.

C: Challenging – Why not just ‘sh*t’ or – if you don’t like swearing – ‘crap’?

D: Decisioning – I think this means ‘calculate’, but I’ve made the decision to leave ‘D’ and move on to …

E: Evangelise – This just gives me the creeps because I hate religion as much as I hate jargon. Possibly more.

stalin

F: Forward – Managers think they can stop people bitching about past mistakes by saying ‘Going forward.’ Stalin said this whenever he wiped out 9/10 of his Politburo.

G: See ‘F’.

H: Heads-up – How about ‘warning’? But not ‘giving head’. That’s for a different blog.

I: Issues – See C.

J: James (Blunt) – This is, strictly speaking, Cockney Rhyming slang and not jargon. It’s a good description for someone who uses too much jargon.

K: Kit – What people who don’t really understand technology call hardware, when they’re desperately trying not to look stupid (and failing). Example: ‘Great piece of kit, the new Samgsung iPhone device’.

L: Leverage – Is so awful you’ll have to look it up yourself if you haven’t already abandoned this in despair.

M: Manage expectations – Means ‘No’.

N: Negative space – Used by designers who don’t have any imagination.

O: Offline – This actually means ‘elsewhere’ but is used by people working on the internet to show they understand computers and that.

P: Partner with – How about ‘join’? Join is a nice clear word. It also feels nice in your mouth when you say it. Have a go. You might enjoy it.

Q: Oh, thank Christ, a break from this horror.

R: Radar – Used by people stuck in an office who failed to get an exciting job that actually uses radar, like fighter pilot.

S: Stakeholder – I blame Blair for this with his ‘stakeholder society’ crap. I think this was shorthand for selling more council houses.

T: Transitioning – This means making people redundant in possibly the ugliest way known to humans.

Usability: A discipline that should help make websites easier to use. Actually a discipline that uses jargon like ‘satisficing’, ‘heuristic’ and ‘ribcaging’. See  Smashing magazine for more if you can stand it.

V: Value add – Horrid and reminds me of VAT. Never a good thing to remind me of.

W: Workstack – what’s this? A 21st century Woolsack? Or just a moronic way to say ‘work’?

X, Y, Z: (I love you, you difficult, end-of-alphabet letters with no office jargon attached to you.)

I also love Steve Jenner of the Plain English Campaign.
He says wise things like this: ‘Some people think that it is easy to bluff their way through by using long, impressive-sounding words and phrases, even if they don’t  know what they mean.’