Why use so many acronyms?
Question: I have been a faithful S-R subscriber since 1955 and I notice that more and more the staff writers use acronyms without telling the readers what the letters stand for. I read the article by John Blanchette re: Mike Price this morning. What in tarnation is UTEP? Guess that's why I try to avoid the sports page completely. (When Price went to Alabama, someone should have reminded him that he was not in Spokane.) -- Phyllis Quass, Hayden
Answer: The writer is correct. As a rule, we use far too many acronyms and too frequently fail to provide the key to unlock their secrets.
It may have something to do with the general proliferation of acronyms in our society. As things become more complex, people look for ways to simplify, and reducing titles and phrases to a set of initials is one way to do that. Military acronyms have been particularly bothersome in the past couple of years. The jargon of public education is full of indecipherable initials. And sports suffers, too.
Our style requires reporters to spell something out before resorting to the acronym and then use the acronym only if it's absolutely clear to readers what we're talking about. WSU is a good acronym for our readers. UTEP (the University of Texas at El Paso) is not one our readers might generally recognize. -- Steve Smith, editor