ONE day, a colleague turned to me and asked, “What’s FYI?”
“For your information.”
“For your action.”
“With reference to…”
Before the conversation dragged on any further, I quickly looked up a website on acronyms used in business communications and sent it to him via e-mail.
This conversation made me realise that the full meaning of many acronyms and abbreviations may not be immediately apparent for many people – students or working adults alike.
For starters, an acronym is a word created from combining the initial letters of each word. For example, For your action.
An abbreviation is a word shortened from its original form. For example, “Attn.” is an abbreviation of the word “attention” to convey the meaning “for the attention of”.
In general, a full stop is used for abbreviations where the last letter of the word and the abbreviation are not the same. For example, “Co.” (Company) needs a full stop but “Ltd” (Limited) does not. Acronyms do not need punctuation marks.
Below are some frequently used short forms in business communication like e-mails, faxes and letters:
a.k.a. – also known as
On Monday morning, Kay El, a.k.a. The Boss, walked in happily and greeted her assistant, Pee Jay.
approx. – approximately
Checking her e-mail, Pee Jay read, “Today is the boss’s birthday. Can everyone please slip off quietly to the cafeteria in approx. 15 minutes?”
ASAP – as soon as possible
Pee Jay opened up her daily planner and scribbled ASAP next to some of the urgent items on her to-do list.
Attn. – for the attention of
Leafing through the stack of mail to be sent out, Pee Jay asked her boss, “To whom should I address the cheque for the annual report?”
Her boss replied, “Just write ‘Attn: Ms. Christine Jalleh’. She’ll know what to do with it.”
Bcc. – blind carbon copy or blind copy to. In this case, the carbon copy is sent to an e-mail recipient whose e-mail address is not visible to the cc or other bcc recipients.
“By the way, I think it’s better if you bcc me in your e-mail to Brown. We wouldn’t want him thinking that I’m supervising you for this project.”
Cc. – carbon copy, or copy to
“But I would like to be cc-ed on the e-mail to Mr Green as I have not yet introduced the both of you to each other.”
c/o – in care of, used when sending a document to A who will receive it on B’s behalf because B is away from the office.
“Boss, I think Christine is back in China this week. Would it be all right if I sent the cheque in care of her assistant? I’ll still write her name on top with c/o Ah Sis Tern below.”
COD – cash on delivery, where a person makes payment for an item purchase after it has been delivered.
“I’m also sending out the cheque for the set of Business English reference books we bought COD on eBay.”
e.g. – exempli gratia (for example)
Pee Jay replied to the e-mail, “Hi everyone. Please remember that the boss doesn’t like surprises, e.g. everyone shouting ‘Surprise!’ in the cafeteria.”
et al. – et alii (and others). Usually used to list co-authors after the lead author in a bibliography, this form is now popularly used to address the other people other than the recipient in e-mails.
She received a new e-mail, which read, “Dear Pee Jay et al., I was reminded that the boss does NOT like surprises …”
etc. – et cetera (and so on OR and so forth)
This means that we will not be able to collectively surprise her by springing out of the cafeteria doors as we had planned, etc.
exc. – except
“Can everyone, exc. Pee Jay, be at the cafeteria in 5 minutes? We need to figure out a surprise without the surprise element. Thanks!”
FYI – for your information
Her boss’s voice brought the young assistant back to the present, “Pee Jay, I’m forwarding you all these e-mails FYI, okay?”
FYA – for your action
“Note that some of these e-mails are FYA …”
i.e. – id est (that is)
After acknowledging her supervisor, Pee Jay decided to help her colleagues out and typed, “She’s in a good mood today, i.e. we won a new account and completed a major project.”
K – thousand, e.g. 450K = 450,000
“Just to give you an idea of her mood, it’s a 450K retainer for the first quarter …”
PA – personal assistant
The immediate reply to Pee Jay’s e-mail read, “Thanks for the info, Pee Jay – you’re the best PA!”
p.a. – per annum (per year)
Pee Jay smiled and responded, “Haha, there is a reason why I’m paid RM65K p.a.”
p.p. – per pro (used when signing a document on someone’s behalf)
Looking back at her paperwork, Pee Jay signed some invoices on her boss’s behalf, inserting p.p. just before her signature.
Pto. – please turn over, used at the end of a page to indicate that there is a continuity to the text.
“By the way, please remember to type Pto. on the first page of the proposal you’re sending. The last time we sent it to him, he forgot to read the subsequent pages,” chimed in Kay El.
viz. – videlicet, namely
She got up and left a note on Pee Jay’s work station before leaving. Scribbled on it was, “Can I pass you my slice of birthday cake after I cut it? I really don’t need a lot of carbo, viz. refined flour, at my age.” The note ended with a wink.
Readers can go to http://www.acronymfinder.com/ to search for the meanings of over 4 million acronyms and abbreviations. This online dictionary also allows users to filter their search according to categories like information technology (IT), military and government, business and finance, science and medicine, organisations and schools, and slang and pop culture.