Common Expressions in Business Writing

When you receive business letters, have you ever wondered what this means “Attn: Everyone in Marketing.” or “Re: bonuses”?

This time, we will look at common abbreviations and acronyms used in memos, emails, and other types of business writing.

Before we go to the main discussion, what’s the difference between an abbreviation and an acronym? An “abbreviation” is when you shorten a word. So, it’s one word where you cut out a bunch of letters and make it shorter. For example, the abbreviation of the word abbreviation is “abbr.”.

Acronyms, on the other hand, are initials. Initials represent the first letter of a word. For example, the initials of the name Aaron Davis are AD. So, when you want to take a group of words and you don’t want to write all of those words, and you just want to make them short, then you use the acronyms.  But, you want these acronyms to be understood by people whom you are communicating with primarily.

Abbreviations in business

When you’re writing a letter through email or by hand on a piece of paper, the following are very commonly used:

1) Attn: This means “attention”, WHO are you writing to or whose attention are you trying to get with this letter.

2) Re: This means “regarding”, or about what. What is the topic of the conversation or the letter?

3) Asst. / Dir. / Mgr. When we end our letter, we say who we are and what our position is in the company, whether you’re the assistant (Asst.), or the director (Dir.), or manager (Mgr.).   Notice that all three of these have a capital. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re using the full word or the abbreviation, you still have to capitalize the title or position of the person.

If you notice, there’s no dot on “attn:” and “re:”, but there’s a dot in “Asst.”, “Dir.”, and “Mgr.”.  There are a few ways to figure out whether it’s okay to use a dot or not. First, the more you engage in this sort of writing, you will just see the most common approach. But another way is a style guide. There’s the Chicago Manual of Style which is the most common style for general purposes. Or, if your company has its own style guide, look at it and see if they want a dot or not in Asst, Dir, or Mgr.  So you have to adjust to your company’s practices.

You can also see these abbreviations in business cards, company’s manual, company’s organizational matrix, and not just in emails or letters.

4) Dept. / Bldg. When we are writing something from the company, we are writing it from the company’s stationery. The pages have a letterhead where all the information about the company is indicated, including the logo, address, contact number, and more. So all the important abbreviations are already there, like which department (Dept.) or building (Bldg.) you are located.

We always want to take shortcuts and not have to write everything down. In business, we want everything to be short and quick, because the less, the better.

5) etc.  This means “etcetera”, or “and many more” or “and others”. So, when you’re explaining something and you’re giving examples, you don’t really want to say all the items in your list. You can instead say, “There are several means of transportation around here. There’s the bicycle, bus, train, etc.”

Acronyms in business

Remember that you always use capital letters when using acronyms. Even if you don’t need capitals in the extended version or full version, you always use capitals here.

1) CEOChief Executive Officer

This is the boss of the company. He or she runs the whole company, everybody answers to him/her.

Then, you have different departments within the company under the leadership of the CEO. That’s when you have CFO (Chief Financial Officer), COO (Chief Operations Officer), and CIO (Chief Information Officer).

2) MSRP – Manufacturer’s suggested retail price

When you talk about big ticket items like cars, appliances, computers, we want to know how much they cost. What you’re paying the store may not exactly be the MSRP because stores want to make it cheaper than the others who sell the same product. So the factory that makes the product tells the stores and distributors that this is the MSRP for LG refrigerator or Samsung washing machine. But a certain local store wants to compete with other stores. So, they say, “We will beat the MSRP by 10%. We will go under the manufacturer’s price.” This means they are 10% cheaper than the actual price.

3) POS – point of sale

You go into the store, and you find the product you like. The POS is the cash register or cashier where you actually made the payment for the product you got.

4) SOP – standard operating procedure

You get your product, you go home and use it, and find that there’s a defect. So, you want to return it to the store because this is not really good. This is not what you paid for. You call the store and say you want to return it, and the store will say, “You will have to come to the store and follow the SOP before we can give you the refund. You have to go through steps A, B, C and we need to contact HQ before you get your money back.” SOP means how we do things in the company. These are the policies in getting things done.

5) HQ – headquarters

If I need to contact someone to get something important done, and I call the local office or store, and they say, “Oh sorry, we can’t help you, you have to call HQ/the main office”.

6) ETA – estimated time of arrival

You call the delivery shop to find out when the product will arrive. So for example, you call or email Amazon because your order hasn’t arrived yet, you say “What’s the ETA on my order?”  Then they write back, “It’ll be there before the end of Monday next week”.

7) CPA – Certified Public Accountant

You get all your financial information, and you go to your CPA to discuss your taxes. They also help with personal or business financial planning. They are recognized and licensed by the government to do your financial processes.

A lot of these are not used only in business. ETA is very common when people travel. So, for example, I have a friend who is coming for the holidays, I send a text message and ask “What’s your ETA so I can meet you at the station?”

Texting uses a lot of shortcuts because people don’t want to write full sentences.

It is essential to learn these so your communication will be smoother and more efficient.


Author
I have a passion for the English language because it is such a powerful tool for creativity and personal development. I've been writing articles since I was in High School. I represented my school in English writing competitions in the city, regional, and national levels. When I was in college, I wrote a short story which was published in the University Literary Portfolio. In 2006, I worked as a call center agent in Cebu City. In 2007 up to 2008, I worked as an English accent trainer in a startup call center company. I have also been offering ESL lessons as a freelance tutor since February 2016.