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Fortnightly hacks and gripes: 'company abbreviations & terms' edition


If you're like me, you'd raise your hand for at least one of these questions.

  • How many of you work for companies that use internal jargon that only staff use?
  • How many of you use code words for projects, programs, or temporary teams?
  • How many of your companies have enough internal acronyms you have or have thought to create a glossary for new hires?


I'm curious, does anyone struggle with this?  

Or, perhaps terms that are specific to your company, are actually helpful or motivating?


Let's discuss. Share what you think can be improved with company jargon and/or what has worked for your teams and what you'd recommend others adopt.


Yes to all of those but we do not have a glossary that we give out, I think that would be a good idea to do, and I think the best thing would be a searchable glossary of acronyms. We use Salesforce so something on the knowledge part of that would be good.

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

I think it makes sense to provide a list of terms that only apply to internal staff, @Sarah.Eaton

How might you suggest contributing to it? For example, would it be crowdsourced by any staff? Or would there be a team that owned maintenance? Or, how would you create a knowledge base in Salesforce?

I think crowdsourcing may be a good idea although for a lot of businesses the level of trust required for that could be challenging! so maybe crowdsourced with some approval.

We already have a knowledge base but I think for something like acronyms a searchable app would be a good idea and should be easy to build.

Incoming pun alert ...APPronym would be a good name for it.

Like Daniel Eads likes this
Daniel Ebers Community Leader Sep 06, 2021

An employer I worked previously for heavily relied on abbreviations in all kind you can imagine.
There is a 'pro' of making (written) communication faster - in spoken language it just may sound awkward.

Back then they had a glossary and from what I believe it was necessary to have one. There were so many abbreviations and word-"creations" - a team member starting new would not have any chance to grasp even just some basics.

Funny thing: they even abbreviated abbreviations - there were some terms boiled down to two letters, so you always had a funny time to figure out what 'KT' or 'TV' currently stands for, was it 'television'? Maybe! But as you can imagine - even that was depending on the department you communicated with.

Contra: Extensive usage of abbreviations can make it hard for new team members to get started. When the team/department/company decides to use abbreviations I'd recommend to make sure new starters are not let alone in the rain. A glossary can be helpful - but there needs to be additional communication around usage.

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Hahaha, "abbreviated abbreviations." I actually see the benefit of that, but it's still funny.

Question: it sounds like your previous company had a glossary of all the different language that only staff would understand. You also suggestion, @Daniel Ebers, that companies need to make sure the language is communicated and used appropriately. So what did your company do there? For example, Atlassian sometimes links to a glossary during onboarding, but I'm not sure we do a lot outside of that. Would love to learn other ways to alert existing staff of NEW words added to a glossary. 

Daniel Ebers Community Leader Sep 07, 2021

@Christine P_ Dela Rosa Admittedly all of the said is dating a few years back. The glossary was more kind of a static web page due to the lack of better solutions back then.

I'm sure today a company would decide for a Confluence page!
This would be an easy way to let people watch the page. Doing so they can easily get notifications about changes (or new terms 😀).

An aspect I forget to touch in my reply are indeed terms that go out to customers through a helpdesk, in advertisements or even via spoken language (thinking of representing a company on a fair or a road-show).
Many companies consider it absolutetely necessary to communicate a product name always in the same fashion.
Also for this intuitively Confluence comes to mind where the correct spelling of a product can be written down and looked up by new team members.
There are some automations out there as well: personally I would refrain from letting a helpdesk solution correct the spelling of a product's name but in case the spelling is critical (to not cross a similar named product and scenarios as such) even such a measure could make sense.

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Confluence FTW!

Kidding aside, I love what you said about bringing automation to something like language. I hadn't thought of that but bots enforcing and teaching people language is totally intriguing. Though, automation with customers without context, to your point, @Daniel Ebers , can be risky.

nina_schmidt Community Leader Sep 09, 2021

oh yes... many abbreviations flying around :-)

- Company abbreviations

- departments

- process steps 

- ....

And indeed we started a glossary when we relaunched the project management process recently. It helps a lot :-) 

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Haha, solidarity, @nina_schmidt.

Anything you wish was different? In the way things are named, how the abbreviations get communicated, etc? Or anything you're happy with that others might want to try?

Like nina_schmidt likes this
nina_schmidt Community Leader Sep 12, 2021

When you figured out the code for the abbreviations ist is ok, but until… and you can Check them in our Intranet. 

@Christine P_ Dela Rosa the Problem is more, that many „Oldies“ are talking in „Company wordings and abbreviations“ and either you ask every time or you try to follow their expressions and look them up afterwards   

Daniel Eads Atlassian Team Sep 09, 2021

Internally at Atlassian we've got a Confluence page of course with all the acronyms. Quick look at stats tells me 79% of Atlassians have viewed the page at an average of 11 times each, and many many have contributed (Confluence only tells you "99+" at this level of contribution!).

If I need to use something that's not commonly understood (example: OKR, MAU, MRR, these are industry-wide terms), then I either like to not acronym-ize it, or define it once (DIO) so that people have the opportunity to see it before slamming them with it later. Journalists also use the principle of DIO when referring to interviewees; they typically note someone's full name the first time they mention them, and then simply use that person's last name for any further quotes or references.

Making it better... an awesome Atlassian built a macOS dictionary from our Confluence page of terms. We use our device management tool to push the dictionary out to Atlassians! So discovering what an acronym means is as easy as clicking hard on it (macOS force-click opens the dictionary):


Like # people like this
  1. DIO - Duh, what a simple concept of introducing the full name and definition upon first use and then using the abbreviation thereafter. I'm not sure why that's not top of mind for me when I think about abbreviations and wonder if it's because folks don't always use that concept. But I love it. And hope others adopt this as well.

  2. And the macOS dictionary??? - As you know @Daniel Eads I work at Atlassian, too, and didn't realize that someone had done that. Doh! But once again, this is so smart and something I think (especially large) companies could implement that provides big ROI (return on investment).

+76 points to you!

Like # people like this
Daniel Eads Atlassian Team Sep 10, 2021

Right? One of the many hidden gems. It's like the feature on Directory that lets you record your name, so other people can hear the correct pronunciation when looking at your profile!

Discovery of features like this is hard! When I buddy with new hires, I usually run through a short list of hacks like these (and adding some sources as search engines in Chrome). That's probably the topic of another post :)

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nina_schmidt Community Leader Sep 12, 2021

That recorded Name Feature is the coolest thing I ever heard regarding contact books and organizational help 

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Abbreviations are one of the first ways to make newcomers feel outcasted.

Abbreviations are one of the first ways to make existing staff feel like they're a part of the club.

Funny, yes?

At my current company, other than traditional jargon related to tech and agile methodologies, we are not overdoing it, I guess. The only exception to that being somewhat important: our company name, which is ACA 😃

The fact that many of our customers and partners don't know how to pronounce it, has become somewhat of a running gag over time. At our yearly company quiz, what it stood for was a recurring question. And as the initial meaning went back to the time of inception of the company, it had somewhat lost its link to what we are doing today. So eventually that even led to an internal brainstorm and even competition to come up with a new meaning for the acronym ...

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

It's that prevelant. Hahaha, yeesh!


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