ACRO podcast episode title card
31. January 2023 - Jeffrey A. McGuire

ACRO, the editing code. Podcast 07

How we create clear and inclusive communication through one of OSP's favorite Editing Codes: ACRO

In our 7th episode, our host Carl Richards interviews Felicity Brand, Christine Beuhler, and Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire. We discuss how we use the Editing Code ACRO to add clarity and give all our readers the same chance to understand our writing.

Welcome to the Open Strategy Partners podcast, "Communicate, Connect, Grow!" At OSP, we specialize in strategic product communication. We help you communicate the value of what you do, connect you with the people who need to know about it, and grow.

Watch, listen

Watch the conversation video on YouTube or listen to it right here in this handy, embedded player!

To display third-party HTML content, we need your consent.

For more information, please see our privacy policy.

Always spell out acronyms — The ACRO Editing Code

The ACRO editing code falls in phase D, the word choice part of our writing and editing process. Our entry defines it thus:

ACRO – Explain what acronyms stand for, as well as what they are and what they do, as needed.

The irony of creating an acronym for using acronyms is not lost on us, but understanding and using acronyms is important. Especially in the tech industry, acronyms abound in the form of technologies, frameworks, languages, processes, and more. And not just on the tech side either — acronyms are also ubiquitous in sales, finance, and executive leadership.

Acronyms help editors, readers, and writers of all industries by staying concise, providing increased understanding, and reducing the reader’s (or editor’s) mental load. Additionally, one of our goals at OSP is wanting to be inclusive. Getting everybody “on the same page” immediately is a solid way to clarify those intentions.

ACRO Examples:

++ ACRO: Data sovereignty is a specific focus within the EU’s digital sovereignty framework, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) playing a central role.

++ ACRO: The cumulative layout shift (CLS) metric measures layout shifts by looking at visible elements that unexpectedly change their position while the page loads. Aim to keep your CLS score as close to zero as possible — anything above 0.25 is considered poor.

As a writer

Using ACRO means you have to understand the acronyms you’re using in your piece, which can be an opportunity to gain more knowledge about your topic. “ACRO can end up being a research activity for me, and I enjoy the learning aspect of that, too,” says jam.

Employing ACRO gives you a unique chance, too: Felicity points out that defining acronyms within the body of your piece is a terrific opening to add authority to your writing. “When you're writing, don't be tempted to hyperlink out to an external resource to define your acronym. You add value by explaining them in the context of your piece,” she says.

Additionally, many technical concepts are complex to grasp, and even experts can word their definitions quite differently. Including your definition can give the reader extra pieces of context that contribute to their understanding as a whole.

As an editor

Scanning for acronyms and their definitions as an editor is usually pretty easy to tick off your editor checklist. But another way to add value is to look for opportunities to use acronyms the author hasn’t spotted. Creating more clarity and brevity is always a goal for us.

It can be a balancing act to decide if older, more well-known acronyms, like HTML or WWW, need additional definitions beyond the basics. A piece pitched at a very technical level risks losing its audience by spelling out widely known acronyms like these.

“For example,” says Felicity, “if the reader comes across CSS spelled out in a written piece pitched at a professional UX design level, they may bounce. They’re probably thinking, ‘This isn't for me. It's too basic. I'm looking for something more detailed and advanced.’” When you’re in this situation as an editor, look to your broader content strategy, the goals behind the asset you are creating, and what the audience wants from it. 

As always, be kind to the reader.

As a reader

The tech world often seems to be accelerating and dividing faster than we can keep up. If you’re a highly experienced reader in one technical realm, other topics may still be a mystery. Learning the lingo, in an easily digestible way, helps newcomers. “I think I'm pretty tech-savvy,” says Felicity, “but even I am clueless when I come across a piece with acronyms that aren’t spelled out — particularly if you get into anything to do with Web3 or cryptocurrency. So don't assume knowledge when it comes to your readers because no one likes to feel that they don't understand. We want to make it easy for them.

Creating clear communication takes practice — join us!

Using the ACRO Editing Code allows you to add authority, kindness, and clarity to your communication — so take the chance!

To get in touch with us, follow what we're doing, or learn about our Writer Enablement Workshops, email us at, or hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin.

Subscribe to our podcast, “Communicate, Connect, Grow,” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, RSS Feed, and YouTube!

Get in touch

Recent Posts

Episode Transcript

Brought to you by our ever-better robot typing pool. To err is human, but we programmed them, so any mistakes will be our fault.

Carl Richards  0:07  
Hi, I'm Carl from OSP. And this is communicate connect, grow the OSP podcast. On today's episode, we're talking about using acronyms in your writing with the editing code acro. If you want to be a more effective writer, a more transparent editor, develop clear strategic thinking, or learn from our network of expert friends and colleagues. That's what we're here for. We divide our episodes across three themes, communicate, connect, and grow. This is a communicate episode, and we're talking about terminology and word choice with our editorial code accurate.

Carl Richards  1:00  
The acro editing code falls into the word choice phase of the editing process. And it's about using acronyms in your writing. In our documentation about this code, it says, acronyms explain what they stand for, and explain what they are and what they do if needed.

Felicity Brand  1:19  
G'day, I'm Felicity brand. And I am a editor and writer at Open Strategy Partners. I do a lot of technical editing, and I do some writing. And I love talking about it. What's the deal with EQ, right? So acro is an editing code that falls in our word choice of phase. It's a pretty simple rule. And maybe a lot of people already know it, it's the rule that you should spell out technical terms, you need to do it at least once, and then place their acronym right next to it. And that's kind of your permission ticket to use that acronym throughout the rest of your written piece for brevity, really, you're saving space. You know, when I first started thinking about acro, I thought, there's not much to say this will be over really quick. But then it turned out that I have a lot to say. So acronyms are prevalent when writing about technology. There's a lot of specific terminology for names and processes in the technology industry. And they're often represented as acronyms, they are good to use when you're writing, because by abstracting a term, you achieve brevity. And that can reduce visual noise for the reader and also kind of reduce the cognitive load as they have to pass, perhaps a long sentence. So you know, acronyms are good. However, we want to be kind to our readers and spell out technical terms, because you don't want to assume knowledge.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  2:52  
Hi, I'm "jam." That's J A M, an acronym for Jeffrey Alexander McGuire. But please feel free to call me Jim acro is simply short for acronyms. And Open Strategy Partners. We want to communicate authentically. And for us, that means being authentic, being clear and being empathetic. And that expresses itself in how we research how we write how we put together communications. I've been in a lot of corporate contexts where acronyms rule the day and think of the classic Have you done your TPS reports, right? I don't know what a TPS report is. And it's a great running joke. But if you're in an organization where there's just letters and numbers and stuff all over the place, it can be really hard to keep track. And we don't want to exclude people. So in the end accurate is really, really, really simple. If you use an acronym, explain it, the first time you use it, and then go ahead and use it for the rest of the piece you're working on. But do that every time. And there's a trick to the explaining. And the best and easiest example for this could be CSS, CSS, everybody says CSS CSS does something with how it makes websites look and respond. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. So the name Cascading Style Sheets well cascading because there's an a hierarchical principle where the more specific something is, then it overrides things that are less specific. And that's just a technical description, but what they actually are is style sheets. So a pretty good way to deal with that. One is just to say CSS stylesheets, even though it's redundant, we understand where that's going. In another case, I might write CSS stylesheets and then an M dash or some brackets or something, the code that controls the display of your website, something like that. And then I've explained the acronym and I've explained what it does and then we can then everybody is probably on the same page enough. For us to continue whatever the discussion is.

Christine Beuhler  5:02  
I'm Christine Bueller, and I'm a Communications Consultant at Open Strategy Partners, which means I'm usually working on blogs and landing pages and newsletters for our clients as well as you know, working more deeply on what their underlying communication strategy should be. So the editing code acro is pretty self explanatory. It just stands for no acronym. All it means is to explain an acronym. Whenever you come across it. Usually we do it in parenthesis, the first time we mentioned it, and then we can resort to using the shortened version of it and the rest of the piece. But we just like to make sure we are clear about an acronym right at the beginning.

Carl Richards  6:00  
Let's explore how you use this code as an editor.

Felicity Brand  6:03  
As an editor. When you're looking at acro, well, it's as simple as checking the acronyms have been spelled out. As per your house style. You can add value as an editor by looking for opportunities to use acronyms that maybe the author hasn't spotted. Another way, acro gives editors an opportunity to add value by deciding when not to spell out an acronym. Consider the broader content strategy, the aim of the piece of writing and particularly the audience, if you're looking at a piece that's pitched at a very technical level, and you know, that can be signposted by the title, you risk losing your audience, if you spell out common or generally accepted acronyms, for example, maybe you've got a piece written for UX designers, that audience probably doesn't need. Now, this may be controversial, probably doesn't need CSS, Cascading Style Sheets to be spelt out. Actually, I'd like to hear what Jim has to say about that. If you've got a written piece that is pitched at a professional UX design level, if early on in that piece, the reader comes across CSS spelled out, they may they may bounce, they might think this isn't for me, it's too basic, I'm looking for something a lot more detailed, a lot more advanced. Anyway, that's that's my opinion, when I'm editing the other job when I'm looking at acro is determining the best place for that first use. So generally, you will introduce your acronym the first time you use that technical term. What if that technical term is in the heading? Do you want to include the acronym in the heading, that's adding character camp, it's adding visual noise. So that's a call that you as an editor might flag with your author. And perhaps you might try to reframe that so that you can elegantly use that technical phrase in the opening sentence, maybe, and get your acronym in there. Another thing that you might like to consider this may be also controversial, is if a piece is really long, and it goes below the fold. Decide whether you need to spell out your acronym more than once. And that's it's really just about being kind to your reader. If they land on the page and scroll down. And they're seeing this acronym, do they have to scroll back up to the top to find out what that term is?

Jeffrey A. McGuire  8:26  
When I'm editing, copy acro, comes under the broad umbrella concept of clarity? Are we explaining things at the appropriate level for the audience. And in any case, if there's something long that we don't want to type, or it's typically referred to as its acronym, hey, let's explain it once give everybody a chance to read our article with the same sort of a starting point or maybe give them enough clues to to go look for more information if they're interested.

Christine Beuhler  9:00  
Acro is especially an important concept in the tech industry, just because there are so many different tech acronyms. And they're also you know, they're changing, new ones are being added, like, all the time. I have been in the tech space for many years now. And I still am googling things like, Okay, what is this new one? What does this one mean? Yeah, I think you know, especially since we are often working with technical clients, sometimes they may take it as a given that everyone's level of knowledge is the same as theirs. And that's not true sometimes. And so making sure everyone is on the same page right at the beginning can help a lot in terms of making readers feel included and welcomed to your piece of writing have you

Carl Richards  10:01  
As a writer? How do you approach this code?

Felicity Brand  10:04  
As a writer, when I'm using a technical term that is quite a mouthful, let's say static site generator, sometimes I can't wait to get to the part where I can just use the acronym. As a writer, you know, you need to be kind to your reader and always spell out the acronym at least once, at the start of the piece. There are accepted rules for how you do that. And generally, you write the phrase, you put the acronym in brackets immediately following, and that is your permission ticket to use the acronym for the remainder of the piece. When you're writing, don't be tempted to hyperlink out to an external resource to define your acronym, lean towards always including it in your writing for names or processes of new or very modern acronyms. You add value by explaining them in the context of your piece. I think there are some acronyms that don't need to be spelled out. And those are older, more well known acronyms in the technology space, such as HTML, URL, maybe CSS, depending, yeah, that's a judgment call. But I think I am going on record to say that I think there are some acronyms in the technology industry that don't need to be spelled out in full

Jeffrey A. McGuire  11:22  
when I'm writing a piece. Acro for me is one of those sort of checklist activities to make sure that I've explained myself well. And it'll end up being a research activity, you know, if I'm dealing with Kubernetes, which is written k, eight s, or I'm dealing with CSS, or ROI, or as soon as you get into business or finance, there's just there's so many of them, I will go and make sure that I understand it. And I will find that way to put in the two three or four words, five words, one sentence, whatever to explain it, right, it ends up being a little research task, I kind of enjoy the the learning aspect of that, too.

Christine Beuhler  11:56  
As a writer, I'm using acro a lot. I'm always looking out for terms that need to be defined. And like explained a little more clearly, I'm often googling those terms, myself. So I understand what I'm talking about as a writer, just defining those acronyms right up front just ties in well with our goal at OSP to just be inclusive and use inclusive language as much as possible.

Carl Richards  12:30  
For the reader to have a great experience. Here's why this editing code is extremely important.

Felicity Brand  12:36  
No one likes to feel stupid. You don't want to make your reader have to work hard to go off page to find the definition of an acronym. You know, I think I'm pretty tech savvy. But even I am clueless. When I come across a piece with an acronym that is not spelled out. Particularly if you get into anything to do with web three, or cryptocurrency there are a heap of acronyms in that space. So don't don't assume knowledge when it comes to your readers. Because no one likes to feel that they don't understand, we want to make it easy for them. You know, we want them to read the written piece. So keep them on page, treat them nicely and help them understand

Jeffrey A. McGuire  13:18  
when we're working on any communication for ourselves or for clients at Open Strategy Partners. We are also thinking about the audience that we're trying to reach. Is it developers who can cope with a much higher level or density or depth of of technical information? Is it marketing people who have other things that they geek out about? Is it business people? And perhaps what is their technical level knowledge of business things? I mean, I could be reading about business for developers, that's not crazy, either. All of these worlds have their jargon. And if I want to make the piece approachable, and stand alone, understandable, I want to give the reader the chance to come along with me to learn about the interesting stuff that I'm writing about. Frankly, the names of technologies are barely ever the point of an article, I just want to give the reader this chance to be like, Hey, this is what we're talking about. This is what it's for. We're going to call it by this acronym now. Now let's get on with the rest of it

Christine Beuhler  14:19  
as a reader macro is important. Just because you can't predict the level of knowledge a reader has when they come to your page. Some readers might not be familiar with that term at all. And they need that definition. Some might already be like experts and so easy for them to just skim past it. They don't need it. And other people, you know, it might be helpful just because they need a refresher. You know, maybe they're like, oh, yeah, I knew what that was, but I forgot or I'm not as clear as I could be on the term. So it's helpful I think for all readers

Carl Richards  15:13  
FYI, if you're using acronyms make sure you say exactly what the acronym means for your information. FYI, explain to the reader so they are very clear with what you're trying to convey. Share your examples or questions with us via Twitter @open_strategy, or email This was one of the editorial codes we use at OSP. If you'd like to learn more in the meantime, come on over to Have a look at our writer enablement workshops case study offering for get in touch to talk about your strategy or product communication needs. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this podcast, all the peas that OSP thanks to our clients who believe in us. Shout out to Patrick Gamal for our high energy, maple syrup flavor theme music and to Mike snow for additional horn arrangements. Thank you for listening and subscribing. About our three themes on the podcast, you'll hear different members of the OSP team hosting episodes over time, communicate all things communication. We share how we tackle writing, editing, word choices, formats, processes, and more. Connect in depth conversations with interesting smart people about who they are, what they do, and how they approach their life and work as communicators, technologists and leaders grow. We cover approaches to understanding and expressing the value of what you do, including tools, templates, and practical applications. We also feel strongly about building a mindful positive human first culture at work that's bound to pop up from time to time to this podcast is us figuring out communication connection and growing together. Subscribe now on YouTube, Apple podcasts or the podcast channel of your choice. Follow us suggest guests and topics. Ask us questions on social media. We are at open underscore strategy on Twitter. Until next time, I'm Carl Richards and this is the OSP podcast.

Felicity Brand  18:04  
Got a lot to say okay, so yeah, I can't compete with Jam Jam has a lot to say. But yes, sometimes I do too. Just a jam starts coming out a lot more perfectly whole and fully formed.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  18:23  
Yeah, so kthxbai TTYL FYIROWQ