Use TLAs carefully!

TLAs (three-letter acronyms) have become an established feature of the English language, but until an acronym becomes universally recognised it should be used with care.

That's why I didn't assume Engine Room readers would recognise 'TLA', and why JD and I give our readers the full version of even a well established TLA the first time it appears in a story. This is clearly not a universal policy.

The following headline and sub-head graced the front cover of today's Western Mail, the Papur Cenedlaethol Cymru ('National Newspaper of Wales', as if you didn't know), below a photo of a Welsh rugby player:

Where's our missing £21m? Fears WAG has plundered cash intended to help disabled people

Readers of British tabloids will be all too familiar with the TLA WAG – it stands for Wives And Girlfriends; particularly when associated with highly paid sportsmen like the stalwart pictured over the WAG headline. In tabloid terms WAGs are known more for their polished appearance and high spending habits than their intellect, but stealing cash from the disabled? A new low even for the most dissipated WAG, I thought.

Not until the 20th paragraph did I learn that to the Western Mail headline writer, if to no-one east of the River Severn, WAG stands for Welsh Assembly Government. A Welshman on our writing team was as confused as I was; it seems WAG has yet to catch on as a TLA for the Assembly, even west of the border.

The moral? It's better to tell your readers something they already know than to baffle them by assuming knowledge they don't have. Mind you, it would have been a great story...


Blue said...

This blogger had something to say about TLAs (or acronyms in general) here:

Apus said...

Thanks Blue; I'll take a shufti