Don’t fall prey to the curse

Excerpts from a true story…
Me: Great piece you’ve written on project X
Other person: Thanks!
Me: I just have one concern with this acronym. I’d like to spell it out just in case it’s not familiar to everyone. Can you tell me what the acronym stands for?
Other person: (silence)
Me: (laughing on the inside)
Other person: Hmm. I don’t really know what the acronym stands for
Me: (to myself asking, didn’t you write this draft and isn’t this your project?)
Other person: Let me ask around and get back to you
Me: Thanks (for nothing)
Don’t worry, I’m not violating my long-standing policy against writing about the gig, and I’ve scrubbed this story sufficiently enough to protect (myself) the innocent.
Exchanges like the one captioned above bring to mind some of the topics covered in what’s a must read for any business communicator –  Made to Stick – a 2007 book written by brothers Chip and Dan Heath.
One particular concept is what Chip and Dan refer to as the curse of knowledge. Specifically, the curse is when a communicator assumes that his/her audience knows everything that the communicator knows (or thinks they know). Sadly, this can result in, among other things, reckless use of acronyms and the assumption that everyone knows what they mean.
We’re all under the gun to deliver, and from time to time in our haste maybe we use acronyms, words and terms that our audience (or ourselves) may not recognize. I know on more than one occasion I’ve fallen prey to this curse. Heck, there have been times when I’ve taken a Ginzu knife to the English language, so it’s hard for me to be too critical.

It just shows that we’re not perfect and there’s always room for us to improve.
Whew…I just filed a thoughtful post on business communications and I didn’t pass out. Could this be the start of something???
Nah, I’ll probably write about Rocky the dog next week!



  1. Paedra

    Your post is so spot on! Thank you for sharing!

    I’m always surprised to find out that no one around me ever asks the question: “Can you tell me what the acronym stands for?” Another question that people don’t feel comfortable asking: “What do these numbers mean?” I have often wondered if this question would evoke a similar response 🙂


  2. Sandra McLeod Humphrey

    You made a really good point. I think I probably do that all the time–start a discourse with someone where I’m at rather than where he’s at. Thanks for the reminder and I’ll keep it in mind in the future.
    Like your blog and I’ll be back!


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