An advertisement for a writer's retreat.

By John Pierce

Acronyms save time and space. They are effective when understood.

Theologian and futurist Leonard Sweet uses acronyms frequently in his writing and teaching. Sometimes I catch on; sometimes I want just words in sentences.

The United States of America, I mean, USA, is run by acronyms like IRS, FBI and CIA. My favorites come from pool reporting that I receive from the White House Press Office when the First Family is out and about.

Last Easter, when the Obamas visited Washington’s Shiloh Baptist Church, the play-by-play reports informed me that POTUS was wearing a lavender tie while FLOTUS was dressed in brown. The daughters of POTUS and FLOTUS were not given initials.

Baptists may be the best or worst at initializing everything: ABC, SBC, CBF, BGCT, WMU, and so on. I think we learned to do this during VBS, GA’s and RA’s.

The danger with acronyms, of course, is that they can cause those who don’t understand them to feel excluded. We create what sociologists call “speech communities” — in that we share a common language.

So churches and other organizations that seek to be inclusive (which, sadly, is not always the case) would do well to pay close attention to what language might cause others confusion or to feel excluded.

Surely acronyms are annoying to those who don’t understand them. Or as I like to say: SAAATTWDUT.

 

(For illustration purposes, I borrowed a Joint Photographic Experts Group of the alphabet. OK, some acronyms, like JPEG, are better understood than the whole shebang.)

 

 

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