· Stefano Chiodino

We need to fight the urge to abbreviate everything!

One day Chris, head of devops, gave me a tour of our setup. He proudly pointed out to me how they prefer to write arguments using the long version, like --allow instead of -a. This is to make it easier to understand the system, and thus maintaining it. It made so much sense: decrease the cognitive load, increase productivity.

Then I started working for the NHS, the biggest employer in the UK, and 5th in the world, just after McDonald's. Seems like in such a big company nobody has time to spell things out, and after more than a year I'm still struggling to catch up on some acronyms. I often come across acronyms that I never bothered or dared to ask about, and despite having developed a sense for that they represent, I still don't know what they stand for.

When writing code, good sense dictates you should call your variable pageTitle, rather than pt. So why is it ok to abbreviate GPES Data for Pandemic Planning and Research in a nested acronym to GDPPR?

I took a business writing course recently, and one of the key points was that you have to write for your audience. Look, I get it. I review a lot of merge requests, and the temptation to call them MR is strong, but think about your audience. Are you in a group chat with your Product Owner and the New Starter?

Use all the acronyms you are confident your colleagues know, when you are writing to them in private. Maximise understanding everywhere else.