I was listening to a radio interview recently in which the guest made a point by recounting a conversation she’s had with her teenage son. She concluded by saying, “That was T-M-I.”
The host’s next question was, “What do you mean by T-M-I? That can mean a lot of things.”
Now, the host may have known this shorthand term for “too much information,” but a good interviewer never assumes that their audience knows. I’d say most acronyms, other than the most familiar ones like F-Y-I, the CIA or the U-N, should be stated in full the first time, before you start using their abbreviated form.
For example, the E-U has been around quite awhile, but Americans don’t talk about the European Union much. Those letters could stand for different things in different places. If a listener has to mentally pause to think, “What do those letters mean?” for even a moment, they’ve tuned out and you may not get their attention back.
To avoid a communications melt-down, watch out for technical language, unfamiliar abbreviations, slang terms and pop culture references, unless you’re
absolutely certain the audience will immediately “get it.”
Heck, when I was just starting out in TV new, when you said T-M-I, you were referring to the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant and its near melt-down. That’s quite a different story from today’s T-M-I.”
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