My recent post regarding the use of abbreviations sparked an interesting email debate with a friend, so I thought I’d return to the same topic.
One tip I picked up from BJ earlier in the year was the method for introducing an abbreviation the first time it appears in your document. Logically, if the assumption is that all readers will all already understand the abbreviation, you put the shortened version first – e.g.:
FSA (Financial Services Authority)
Financial Services Authority (FSA).
That said, I guess context is everything. Evaluating proposals for a major IT hardware programme not long ago, I was grateful to one supplier for reminding me in their Executive Summary that that “PC” meant “Personal Computer”! That takes the document to the opposite extreme – patronising the reader: not a good place to be.
Glossaries also need careful consideration. Placing a copious list of abbreviations at the start of your document can create a very negative impression in the customer’s mind (“wow, this is going to be a hard read”). Yet leaving it to the end of the book (actually my personal preference, if you include one at all) results in evaluators read the whole document before noticing that help is at hand. And if the customer physically divides their proposal, parcelling out different sections to the relevant experts for review, then your readers probably won’t have your glossary in their individual bundle of papers, wherever you’ve chosen to include it!