1 min Read
August 11, 2009

Great name, lousy acronym

When acronyms don’t form a real word (“PFCS”, for instance) they’re insider-speak: relevant only for people who are close the organization. When they sound like other words, all the baggage of that other word comes to bear.

Photo by: Vintage85

For instance, I know several people who’re involved with an environmental organization called Friends of the Earth (link to This terrific nonprofit “champions a healthy and just world” through environmental advocacy. I love the name Friends of the Earth- who doesn’t want to be a part of that?? But the acronym- FOE- is literally the antithesis of their name. Their website is doesn’t sound like a place I’d like to be as an activist.

Similarly, I worked on a project a few years ago involving an organization who referred to themselves by their acronym JACAS, which basically sounds like… well… you get it.
When organizations are founded or rename themselves, people forget to consider the shorthand and default to the acronym. Why not come up with something more evocative of the work itself? Or just stick with the full name??

Acronyms that string together meaningless letters distract from, rather than build, support. is a handy website that can help you identify other organizations who might use the same acronym you’re using. Still, try coming up with something more meaningful if you can: it’ll help outside audiences build familiarity with you rather than alienating them.