Words Communicate – Single Letters Don’t.

What value does the latest fashion for setting down only the initial letters of words that are crucial to a writer’s argument add to reader or listener comprehension? – especially when, as in a recent article in Harvard Business Review titled “Executive Physicals: What’s the ROI?” no mention was made anywhere in the text of the fact that ROI means “return on investment.”  

Single letters, however large, are primitive instruments with which to prize open the inner core of meaning and avoid linguistic confusion. For that very reason human beings long ago devised a system that combined letters into clusters, named those clusters ‘words’ and assigned each cluster a specific significance.

Admittedly, certain acronyms signifying world renowned banks (UBS) or major companies (IBM) have long been in use, as have ones defining roles such as MP or MD or CEO or HRH. But –  Lo and behold! – I suddenly come across an article online claiming that: IBM now, not only stands for “International Business Machines Corporation”, but for the” Izu Bonin-Marianas Island Arc” in the Western Pacific, International Brotherhood of Magicians … Initial Body Mass … Italian By Marriage … and Injection Blow Moulding – Wow!  What confusion initialising that lot would cause if set down in one paragraph

And therein lies the nub of my argument. Capitals, because of their size, may stop readers in their tracks for a moment, but if when looking behind the caps they merely see a hall of mirrors – any one of which could be hiding the door they are meant to pass through to follow an argument – the only thing such Block Capital Letters do is to Block Concrete Lucidity. 

Having fulminated so strongly against what I see as bad practice there is, however, one use of Capitals that I see as good practice: i.e. when they are used to spell-out whole words that one wishes to emphasise as forcefully as possible.

Hence:  I now make use of that stylistic ploy to say GO EASY ON THE ACRONYMS BECAUSE, though they may stand tall on a page, THEY FALL SERIOUSLY SHORT ON COMMUNICATION.

Janet Howd © 10,2,21