Sending seeds to the BX

Jim McKenney
Wed, 25 Feb 2009 14:32:46 PST

Uli wrote: What on earth is going on in the US? I try to follow the
(more or less) but reading the e-mails so full of abbreviations I do not
know nor understand (what is a MOU for example)"

Don't feel bad, Uli, this native speaker of English, who read this thread
backwards (i.e. newest posts first then working backwards) was also

Because this forum is read by an international following, we need to be
careful about using abbreviations which are not likely to be recognized
outside of certain fields of endeavor. 

It is standard practice in using such abbreviations to introduce the
abbreviation and define it before using it. For instance, one might write
"If the memo of understanding (hereafter MOU) had been signed by all parties
involved..." or "The Plant Inspection Station (hereafter PIS) is

One of us should have spoken up sooner. 

I'll bet those contributing to this rich vein of advice were so focused on
the ideas they were trying to convey that it never occurred to them that it
might be confusing to some readers. 

My mom tells the story of meeting one of her brothers in law shortly after
she and my dad were married. This particular brother in law had spent his
life in the military. My mom didn't understand a thing he said because
everything he said was expressed in the sort of acronyms he was used to
using in the military. He himself probably didn't know exactly what some of
those acronyms stood for; in the world he lived in that was just the way
everyone spoke. 

Jim McKenney

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