We’ve been saying for a long time around here that acronyms (and jargon) don’t belong in bschool essays.
Most often, people want to use acronyms to reduce word count. And what a great idea that seems! You have a big, bloated company name and you can reduce that down to just four little letters, then use that with every subsequent mention in the writing.
Technically that’s a correct way to go about it, in any sort of formal writing.
Strategically, in your bschool essays, we say that’s a bad idea.
Here’s the deal: Acronyms are user-unfriendly.
It would be easier on your reader if you just wrote out the name of the organization. When you use an acronym, it’s like putting speed bumps in your writing. Every time the reader hits the acronym, they have to mentally translate – or even back up to remind themselves what you meant. This is not good, it breaks up the flow of comprehension, and it’s not necessary.
To oddly quote ourselves:
No acronyms in essays. Every time the reader hits one, they have to stop, back up, and mentally figure out what it refers to. Not good.
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) December 31, 2014
There’s worse transgressions you could make in essay-writing – like these and these – however acronyms just don’t cut it. The other issue with acronyms is when you’re citing a program, club or resource at the school and you reference it by its abbreviation only. This is not like a sin or anything, we’re not going to send the ‘Snark Police out after you – but it can also come across as very familiar. Like you’re already an insider at the school.
For this reason in particular, we don’t think it sounds so great to say “HBS.” Yes it’s three whole words to write out “Harvard Business School” but it seems more respectful, doesn’t it?
We especially avoid abbreviating schools that don’t tend to abbreviate themselves. We could be wrong about this, but we don’t frequently see the Columbia admissions peeps saying “CBS” anywhere on their admissions information site. If they don’t say it, you shouldn’t say it.
Just our stance on the matter.
No, these aren’t rules, they’re more foibles and stylistic preferences. But we believe you will come across in a stronger fashion when you pay attention to tone in these small ways.
And yeah, acronyms are like speed bumps. They really kill your reader’s forward momentum when they’re speeding along in an essay. No good, brother. No good.