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AFK to WFH: 75+ Business Terms and Acronyms Explained

By Jane Callahan · May 28, 2015
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In the age of texting entire conversations and the widening adoption of team chat apps, the list of business acronyms is constantly getting longer. (Technically, they're initialisms, but you get the point.)

As more business terms get added to the cyber pile, there's a good chance you're unfamiliar with a few of them. Or even if you know what an acronym stands for, you may not understand what the heck it means.

That's why we've put together a thorough list of initialisms, so you can decode a coworker's business-speak and avoid staring at them blankly.

So even if you're just an SMB working to beef up your DAUs, this list is highly useful, IMHO. TIA!



SMB | Small and Medium-Sized Business

What classifies a business as an SMB largely depends on the industry—what might be a medium-sized enterprise in the food industry may be a small business in the engineering sector. But typically, any business with 100 employees or fewer is an SMB, with mid-sized businesses coming in under 1,000 to 1,500 workers.

SMB can also represent Small and Mid-Sized Business, and Europeans tend to use SME, which stands for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.

In Conversation: Many banks have perks to attract SMBs, such as low monthly checking account fees.

B2B | Business-to-Business

Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like: B2B transactions are when one business sells a good or service to another business. For example, a large fabric manufacturing company sells their fabrics to The Gap, or a computer parts manufacturer sells processors to Microsoft.

In Conversation: Boeing deals almost exclusively in B2B sales; very few individuals are in the market for a jumbo jet.

B2C | Business-to-Consumer

Also referred to as Business-to-Customer, B2C reflects the older business model we know: a business that sells goods or services to individuals.

In Conversation: Shopping malls are full of B2C businesses, though almost every business has brought that presence online.

C2C | Customer-to-Customer

Interchangeable with Consumer-to-Consumer, this is one of the business models of the online marketplace—it's also the oldest type of e-commerce model. It's when someone selling a product or service to potential customers is him or herself the customer of a business' platform.

That's not as complicated as it sounds. Consider eBay: To sell, you need to sign up as a user (i.e. customer) of eBay, and you are selling your goods to other customers. C2C platforms like eBay turn a profit by taking a portion of each seller's sales, or by charging a flat fee.

In Conversation: Etsy's success has shown that C2C marketplaces, where makers can sell their work, have great potential.

DBA | Doing Business As

You may know Cherilyn Sarkisian—she's DBA Cher.

Anyone who operates a business under a name other than the full registered business name—think of how an artist or author uses pen name or pseudonym—is DBA a different name. Depending on the state, one must run ads in local papers declaring their DBA handle. This requirement protects consumers from shady businesses that change names to cover their tracks. (But really, who reads the legal notices section in the newspaper?)

If you incorporate yourself, either as an LLC or an Inc., that counts as a DBA filing. If you're the sole proprietor of a business with a name other than your own, you need to file for a DBA notice (for example, John Doe is DBA John's Auto Parts).

In Conversation: Max was fined for not filing notices in the local paper that he was now DBA E-Z Cleaning Services.

LLC | Limited Liability Company

An LLC is essentially a tax-motivated entity; it's a company that has the shield of a corporation from creditors' claims for the shareholders, but at the same time can be taxed like a partnership.

This eliminates a double taxation: A corporation is taxed as an entity distinct from its owners, and therefore there's a tax on the company's income and on the money going to its shareholders.

Corporate assets are solely liable for the debts of the corporation, and the shareholders and officers don't have a liability for those debts.

An S Corporation enjoys the same benefits.

In Conversation: Originally his company was simply incorporated, but he filed as an LLC before attempting to go public.

CSR | Corporate Social Responsibility

All major corporations have an effect on the world, whether it's the aftershock of a bank's bad practices or local job losses following a manufacturing plant closure. Most big corporations have CSR departments—the do-gooder arm of the company.

Often their initiatives are correlated with their industry. For example, the Starbucks CSR team might spearhead the company's fair trade coffee initiative.

CSR can also use the term "corporate citizen," since corporations are considered people under the law.

In Conversation: Many people felt that BP did not do enough after the Gulf oil spills—like donating to local wildlife protection—to demonstrate sufficient CSR.

SOP | Standard Operating Procedure

Remember "stop, drop, and roll"? Then you learned some SOP as early as kindergarten.

SOP outlines a step-by-step process for doing something. It's especially important for fast-growing companies with different locations, who need to ensure employees are doing something uniformly for their customers.

Often, SOPs are written to meet certain legal or industry requirements, like regulated procedures and safety demands.

In Conversation: Before they can start working on a plane, airline attendants need to memorize the SOP for aircraft evacuation.


Moz, which makes tools to help marketers better their SEO strategy, used to go by the name SEOmoz.

SEO | Search Engine Optimization

SEO is a way of organizing a website so that its pages are more likely to appear near the top of search engine results. If your site can grab one of the top spots for a search term, it can lead to more visitors (known as "organic traffic"), and eventually more customers.

To understand the strategy behind SEO, imagine searching for a book in a library. If you're looking for a book on APIs, for example, you would enter "API" into a library's search tool. For books to appear in the results, a librarian would need to have properly logged the book's title into its database. If that value wasn't properly entered, however, the search tool might not be able to find a book on APIs. SEO is the way in which you make your site discoverable to search engines, just like a librarian makes a book title discoverable to a library search tool.

An acronym commonly used with SEO is SERP (Search Engine Results Page), which refers to either a single page of links of the entire search results for a particular search query.

In Conversation: An early SEO tactic was 'keyword stuffing,' which led to web copy full of the same words mentioned over and over again—and poor copywriting.

PPC | Pay Per Click

Like many terms related to e-commerce, PPC entered the marketing lexicon during the dot-com boom of the '90s. Also known as CPC—Cost Per Click —it's a payment structure for online paid search marketing.

Anytime someone clicks on your posted ad, you pay a predetermined fee. If you advertise on Facebook, for example, your PPC cost can change daily depending on how many clicks you get, and how many other advertisers are vying to reach a demographic.

In Conversation: Ads targeting millennials who buy clothing online demand a higher PPC cost than those targeting middle-aged chess fanatics.

CTR | Click Through Rate

Speaking of PPC, how many of those who viewed your ad actually clicked on it? If a lot did, you have two things: a higher bill, and a higher CTR. This metric can be used to tell advertisers how many people went to wherever the ad directed them—and subsequently, the effectiveness of their campaign.

You'll also hear about CTR for other marketing campaigns, like email newsletters and blog posts. The only downside is that CTR only measures how many people saw the ad and clicked on it—not how many people visited that page later via another source.

A term associated with CTR is conversion rate, or how many people the ad turned (or, converted) into paying customers.

In Conversation: We are looking for a copywriter who can demonstrate the ability to craft content that yields a high CTR.

CTA | Call To Action

Marketing involves asking or encouraging people to do something—click on a link, download a PDF, start a free trial, etc.

Each ask is a CTA. For example, if a magazine sends out an email campaign about discounted subscription rates, the associated CTA should prompt people to sign up for the deal.

CTAs can include a sense of urgency, so this magazine's CTA might note that the offer is for a limited time only, and shouldn't be missed.

In Conversation: Many diet pill ads have time-sensitive CTAs, often pushing customers to stop waiting and start losing weight today.

DAU | Daily Active Users

When Twitter was poised for its IPO, there was a lot of talk about how much money the company was actually worth. That's because while Twitter boasts millions of accounts, a large percentage of those people never tweet.

DAU is a metric that determines how often users engage with something, whether it's social media, gaming, or a website. Companies can also measure MAU (Monthly Active Users) to get a broader picture.

A term you may see with DAU and MAU is "unique user"—if you sign into Facebook three times day, that only counts as one visit under the unique user metric.

In Conversation: We are seeing a dip in our DAU, and I think it's because people find the user experience unfriendly.

USP | Unique Selling Proposition

Also known as a Unique Selling Point, this is what sets competitors apart from each other.

When Burger King entered the fast food space, it had to communicate a clear USP to differentiate itself from McDonalds, so they emphasized their char-broiled burgers—something McDonalds didn't have.

Other types of USPs could be prices that come in under everyone else's, or a never-before-seen item.

In Conversation: Costco became successful because it had such distinguished USPs that differentiated it from other supermarkets—high volumes at low prices for everyday items used by everyday people.

TM | Trademark

You surely know what a trademark is—a symbol that shows ownership and verification of "the real thing." But how his that little ™ different from ®?

Filing a trademark with the government can take more than a year, so while you're waiting for it to be approved you can use TM; only after it is approved can a company use that "R" symbol. While getting a TM on your product does take a long time, your brand name and logo are protected from the date of filing.

In Conversation: When Kennedy Fried Chicken opened, it seemed like the restaurant was infringing on KFC's TM.



SaaS | Software as a Service

Sometimes it makes more sense to rent than to buy—and that's what SaaS is all about. When you subscribe to a software program that you can access on the Web, you're using software as a service. SaaS companies are all over: Dropbox, Smartsheet, and Zapier are all examples of this business model.

SaaS has also been termed "on-demand software."

In Conversation: Squarespace is one of the most popular SaaS offerings for bloggers.

iPaaS | Integration Platform as a Service

With the rise of the number of SaaS applications used by businesses, another tool has entered the market: iPaaS. These platforms, such as Zapier, often allow individuals to integrate applications without any technical know-how. For example, people can use an iPaaS to connect form software like Wufoo with a Google Sheets spreadsheet to automatically import new entries.

Add new Wufoo entries to a Google Sheets spreadsheet

Add new Wufoo entries to a Google Sheets spreadsheet
  • Google Sheets logo
  • Wufoo logo
Google Sheets + Wufoo

In Conversation: We should look into implementing an IPaaS so we no longer need to manually import new leads into our CRM.

DB | Database

A DB can be thought of as a combination of the all file cabinets, Rolodexes and and stacks of paper in your house, all rolled into one resource that's searchable and accessible with the help of a web application.

To achieve this, a DB stores your data in an organized matter. For example, it might break down a contact's name into "First Name," "Middle Name" and "Last Name." With the data neatly stored, you're able to run queries on a database, such as searching your digital Rolodex for a specific individual.

In Conversation: David forgot to enter those numbers into the DB and now our projections are entirely off.

VPN | Virtual Private Network

When you're on public wifi (like at a coffee shop), you might ask yourself, "Is this internet connection secure?" Specifically, you might—should—hesitate to use personal sites like banking and insurance when you're on a public wifi network.

Your employer cares about security, too, and that's why they likely require you to log onto a VPN when you're accessing your work away from the office.

A VPN requires users to log in to a portal separate from their Internet connection, and any data exchanged is firewalled to non-approved users. VPNs are ideal for companies with multiple locations across the globe, as well as companies that deal with highly sensitive information.

In Conversation: In hindsight, Sony employees probably should have had several conversations through the company's VPN, rather than over easily hackable email accounts.

ISP | Internet Service Provider

Any company that you pay to provide an Internet connection to your home and business is an ISP. AOL and EarthLink were the earliest and biggest ISPs to hit home computers in the U.S.

In Conversation: ISPs are at odds with much of the public over proposed Net neutrality laws.

IP | Internet Protocol

If you've ever wondered how the FBI can track down criminals based on online activity alone, here's the secret: they're tracking computer's IP, which is a unique set of numbers that is basically a computer's "address." IPs are how information is sent from one computer to another (like file sharing).

In Conversation: Those who download movies and songs illegally may appear on a list of IPs that are violating copyright laws.

CRM | Customer Relationship Management

CRMs help companies build and manage a system for interacting with current and potential customers. Originally, that was all done in-house, but with the advent of cloud computing, companies with more than one location can leverage technology to make customer management much easier.

Today, there are plenty of CRM software providers, such as Salesforce, Nimble and Nutshell, that help companies do this. The best CRMs offer a database that prevents multiple sales people from pitching the same person, and automated customer follow-up. And as social media has carved a valuable niche for marketing and sales, there are many social CRM providers, too.

In Conversation: My favorite part about our CRM program is that it divides leads into subcategories, so we can customize our approach to different potential customers.

ATS | Applicant Tracking System

Hiring is always a chore, which can quickly become a pain. That's where an ATS comes in handy—it helps a company manage hundreds of incoming applications and schedule multiple interviews per day while keeping candidate notes in order. An ATS may also be used to manage a "Jobs" page to your site, or automatically post new positions to job listings site like Monster.

In Conversation: Since we're now hiring for multiple positions at a one time, I think we're overdue for an ATS like Workable.

ERP | Enterprise Resource Planning

Without ERP software, a growing business could be doomed. This tool helps companies look at their goals and operations from various levels and strategize accordingly. As you can imagine, ERP software is highly data-driven.

The point of using an ERP is to drive improvement, identifying processes that could be more efficient and to spotting areas of weakness.

In Conversation: Large grocery stores rely on ERP software to make sure they don't overstock or understock regular items.

CMP | Cloud Management Platform

Gone are the days of doing a facepalm because the document you need is on your home computer. With programs like Evernote and Google Docs, you can access and share documents, images and video—but how can you be sure it's secure?

A CMP helps individuals and companies secure their cloud-based information—think of it as an IT-meets-concierge service for your cloud-based work.

In Conversation: A lot of CMPs have role-based access control, which only lets certain executes work on highly confidential documents in the cloud.

OMS | Order Management System

Sorry, but there's no magical little man taking down your orders with pencil and paper when you book an airline ticket. Big online shops use an OMS, a system that processes and tracks online orders. OMSs help customers place orders securely, and communicates that information to the seller.

In Conversation: In the great comedy Tommy Boy, the villain tampered with data in the OMS, almost sinking Callahan Auto Parts.

SKU | Stock Keeping Unit

If you've ever imagined what an Amazon warehouse might look like, know that it's chock-full of SKUs. Stock keeping units are used to identify a particular product in an inventory, and they're usually in alphanumeric form. You'll likely need your SKU to track a package online, and they're even used for non-physical items like insurance policies.

In Conversation: Let's make sure to include the model number in the SKU, that way we can reference both if we need to.

SSO | Single Sign-On

If you're sick of having to remember and enter multiple passwords, then SSO is for you. SSO lets users access multiple software programs with one username and password combination. Google Apps is a great example, which lets you access Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive and more with a single account.

Single sign-off lets you exit all those programs and applications at once as well.

In Conversation: Google's SSO feature is convenient because I can access my email, calendar and documents by logging in once to any of the services.

Web Development and Design


HTML | HyperText Markup Language

HTML is the skeleton of any website you visit. Like any computer language, it's a bunch of symbols that give commands, and it's used to format and organize content on a webpage. It's a basic foundation of CS—Computer Science.

In Conversation: Because CS skills are in such demand, schools are starting to count classes that teach HTML coding toward foreign language requirements.

CSS | Cascading Style Sheets

CSS is a programing language that compliments HTML—think of it as the skin and clothing on your HTML skeleton. It's used to add color and styles to a website's text, images, and other content. Best practice for CSS has developers create a separate file of CSS language that tells a web page how to present the HTML.

In Conversation: I'd really like the text to fade in and out as visitors go to a new page. Do you know how to do that with CSS?

QA | Quality Assurance

If you look closely at a new piece of furniture, you'll often find an "Inspected by" sticker that assures the product is up to the standards of the manufacturer. This QA step exists in the software industry, too—before or sometimes immediately after a new version of an app is released, a round of QA is performed. You'll see this initialism in job titles, too, such as QA Manager.

In Conversation: We might be on a time crunch, but for the sake of user satisfaction we can't skip the QA step.

API | Application Programming Interface

When a developer builds an app that talks to another program, they must work with that program's API. APIs are part of our everyday lives; whenever you swipe a credit card or download a new app to your phone, for example, APIs are involved.

Think of an API as a language that two apps can use to communicate with one another.

In Conversation: Some developers have called for a standard API that would make apps widely usable by various vendors, rather than compatible with just one.

LB | Load Balancer

When the Obamacare site went live, so many people visited it at once that it went haywire. That's probably due in part to an insufficient load balancer. An LB disseminates network traffic across servers so that a website or application isn't overwhelmed (so, it balances a load).

In Conversation: Buzzfeed must use an LB since it's one of the most visited sites on the internet.

DDoS | Distributed Denial-of-Service

This term is almost always followed by "attack," and in the spectrum of technological history, is relatively new. A website under attack will experience disrupted service, making it unavailable to visitors.

Carrying a DDoS attack on a website is a cybercrime. The first documented DDoS attack was in February of 2010; a 15-year-old boy shut down huge online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, leading to $1.7B in losses for all the companies affected. Ouch.

In Conversation: The social justice hacker group Anonymous often uses DDoS tactics to bombard websites belonging to targeted organizations.

Human Resources

NDA | Non-Disclosure Agreement

If you've worked for a corporation, either as a consultant or an employee, you've probably signed one of these. In layman's terms, it means you can't divulge information that's not available to the public. NDAs prevent competitors from stealing trade secrets, and they can be valid well after someone has left a company.

Companies with strict NDAs tend to also include NCAs—Non-Compete Agreements—in their contracts. These prevent employees from working for one of the company's competitors, or becoming a competitor, for a designated amount of time.

In Conversation: I can't talk about the details of the merger because I signed an NDA.

CV | Curriculum Vitae

Latin for "the course of one's life," this term came into use around the early 1900s. In short, it just means your resume.

In the traditional sense, CVs are much longer than the standard one-page resume, and take a prose-type format. CVs can delve into a rounded description of your life beyond just job titles and dates. But today "CV" and "resume" are used interchangeably in the U.S.

In Conversation: Please include a cover letter with your CV to be considered for this position.

FMLA | Family Medical Leave Act

President Bill Clinton worked with Congress to bring this into law in 1993 to provide more protection to workers who have to deal with the unexpected in their lives.

FMLA allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave; maternity leave falls under FMLA. Other reasons include the death of an immediate family member or an illness. While leave times vary, it ensures that a company can't replace you during a certain period of time if you need to take FMLA.

Some people mention that they're on FMLA in their out of office email responses to signify an extended leave, but impending return.

In Conversation: Her dad isn't doing well, and there's no one else to care for him, so she took FMLA until September.

PTO | Paid Time Off

When you ask your boss if you can take next week off, make sure you have enough PTO to do so. Every company's PTO policy is different, from how many days you get to how you accrue it.

In Conversation: Some companies have started to offer unlimited PTO as a perk that is meant to increase morale and attract the best talent.

LWOP | Leave Without Pay

LWOP simply means that someone is taking time off work and will not receive compensation when they do so. It's the opposite of PTO, and can be either voluntary or enforced. In Conversation: In the midst of "deflategate," Tom Brady was punished with LWOP that will last four games.

PP / PPE | Pay Period / Pay Period Ending

PP and PPE are common terms in the world of Human Resources; they signify when a payment cycle ends and a new one begins. These usually come up when onboarding or exiting an employee.

In Conversation: Kyle will see his annual bonus in the PPE May 1st.


When Twitter

GP / NP | Gross profit / Net Profit

If nothing else, you're familiar with "gross" and "net" thanks to annual tax filings. Gross profit refers to how much a company has made from selling something, and net profit is what the company made from selling something after all the costs of running the business and making that product have been deducted. The net profit is what businesses use to determine their income.

For example, if I bought mugs in bulk from China at fifty cents per piece, and sold one for a dollar, I made a gross profit of one dollar but only fifty cents net profit.

In Conversation: On paper their GP is impressive, but executive salaries are so high that their annual NP is actually quite low.

FQ / FY | Fiscal Quarter / Fiscal Year

A fiscal quarter is three months long, and a fiscal year is 12 months long. However, a company's fiscal year may not follow the January-to-December calendar; some start in July, for example, and go through June of the following year. Most companies that sell stock to the public follow an FQ and FY that is standard for their industries, so that they can report quarterly and annual earnings that help stockholders determine what they want to do with their assets.

In Conversation: The company just released its first FQ earnings, which exceeded the expectations of financial analysts.

MTD / YTD | Month-to-Date / Year-to-Date

MTD and YTD are measurements of performance over specific periods of time. (In the financial world, MT and YT are widely accepted variants.)

As opposed to FY, which can differ from company to company, YTD and MTD have specific windows in the world of finance. YTD starts January 1st of the current year and ends December 31st. MTD is marked by the first day of the month and ends on the last day of the month.

Other sister initialisms you might encounter are BOY, MOY, and EOY—Beginning-, Middle-, and End-of-Year.

In Conversation: While MTD sales are up, our YTD sales are down five percent.

MOM / YOY | Month-Over-Month / Year-over-year

These are similar to MTD and YTD, except that the dates can start and end within any 30- or 365-day period, respectively.

In Conversation: The pharmaceutical company started selling the new drug on March 15, and their MOM earnings have skyrocketed.

MRR | Monthly Recurring Revenue

Because it operates on annual membership with monthly installments, a fitness center is one type of business that, generally, can rely on a certain MRR—income that one can almost certainly depend upon each month.

In Conversation: Retired senior citizens can rely on a certain amount of MRR, thanks to social security checks.

ROI | Return on Investment

Although solar panels are expensive to install, the technology saves residents enough money on energy bills that they pretty much pay for themselves. That signifies a good ROI—you get back more than what you put in.

You can use ROI when talking strictly numbers (we spent x, and got x back), but it can also apply to experiences. For example, if you spent money on a cruise and didn't enjoy it at all, it had a poor ROI. Businesses use ROI to determine if something they are doing or selling is "worth it."

In Conversation: Real estate developers are quick to front millions of dollars on luxury rentals, because in the long term they end up seeing a huge ROI.

ATV | Average Transaction Value

ATV is the average amount customers are spending with a business in one round of purchase. A bakery's ATV, for example, is going to be much lower than a car dealership's ATV.

Businesses look at their ATV as a way of measuring performance among store locations, planning inventory, and learning about customer behavior and patterns.

When talking about ATV, you may encounter UPT (Units Per Transaction), which measure how many of something a customer bought in a given purchase, and CPU (Cost Per Unit), which measures what each item costs.

In Conversation: The ATV of our Times Square location is almost ten times that of our Austin location.

CAC | Customer Acquisition Cost

When SaaS companies consider how much of their budget they should set aside for marketing, they'd be smart to take into consideration their CAC. That number tells them how much they need to spend to gain one new customer, including the cost of research, advertising and marketing.

In Conversation: Since our CAC has risen to $50, I'd like us to consider increasing our subscription price tag beyond $60.

CLV | Customer Lifetime Value

Calculating CLV can help businesses determine a marketing budget, since it puts a total present-dollar value on how much one customer will spend. The ways to arrive at the figure vary, but generally include knowing the average customer lifespan, the gross profit margin per customer and the average monthly revenue per customer.

When a company's CLV is higher than its CAC, adding a new customer is considered profitable.

In Conversation: Now that we see our CLV has risen from $230 to $450 this past year, let's be more aggressive with our marketing and advertising campaigns.

FOC | Free of Charge

The word "free" is music to a customer's ears. But FOC is more often used internally, since it may be confusing or too informal for customer-facing exchanges. And although most business don't list everything as FOC, sometimes it's a given—a brake inspection, for example, might be provided FOC with your oil change.

In Conversation: We should use Amazon's model of shipping returns FOC.

IPO | Initial Public Offering

If you follow technology startup news, there are two kinds of stories that tend to dominate the big blogs: new fundraising rounds and company IPOs.

Fundraising rounds are when capital is privately put into a company—the deal is done behind closed doors, and the terms of the deal are left undisclosed. IPOs, on the other hand, mark the first time a company allows the general public to buy shares of their company.

After an IPO, just about anyone could use a site like TD Ameritrade to purchase a share in a public company, something that wouldn't be possible with a privately held company.

In Conversation: Venture capital firms are eager to see portfolio companies either file for an IPO or receive a sizable acquisition offer.

Office Chat


IIRC | If I Recall Correctly

If you're not absolutely sure about something, but feel your memory is reliable, IIRC is a good term to use. You can also use it to gently remind someone of something.

In Conversation: IIRC, you said the discount was 30%, not 25%…

FWIW | For What It's Worth

When you're offering your two cents and aren't sure if it makes a difference to someone, throw in FWIW at either the start or end of your statement. It's often used to counterbalance an opposing sentiment. In Conversation: I know he wasn't crazy about your campaign idea, but I thought it was great, FWIW.

SMH | Shaking My Head

This is handy for expressing disapproval or disappointment and is a less forthright way. Because it illustrates body language in place of speaking, often stands alone as a sentence. Like most acronyms that denote an physically action, it's sandwiched by two sets of colons.

In Conversation:

Frank: Jennifer was late to work again today.

Jessica: ::SMH::

IMHO | In My Humble Opinion

Use IMHO when you're providing input as a more junior employee, or as someone who doesn't specialize in the subject of discussion. You can also use it when you're expressing a potentially conflicting opinion, or when you're suggesting improvement or change.

In Conversation: I think the font is a little too big, IMHO.

IDK | I Don't Know

Sometimes it's best to be honest when you don't have an educated opinion. Using IDK is a quick way to say you're out of the loop, uniformed or not knowledgeable of the topic at hand.

In Conversation:

Sarah: What's the fastest way to go about increasing our email subscriber list?


WRT | With Respect To

In a team chat app, its easy for multiple conversations to happen at once, sometimes on top of each other. Using WRT can easily clear up impending confusion, and highlight what point you're referencing.

In Conversation: WRT the idea to get Google Calendar notifications in Slack, I'm all for it!

TIA | Thanks In Advance

The nuance that comes with TIA is both polite and insisting. It expresses gratitude, but also a sense of "this needs to get done, and you're doing it."

In Conversation: I need the budget finalized by next week. TIA for your help on this.

HT | Hat Tip

Originating from the physical tip of a hat, HTs today can be seen at the end of blog posts or in chat conversations to give credit to the inspiration for an idea.

In Conversation:

Jeff: Great idea, Sylvia! I like closing with a challenge to the readers.

Sylvia: HT Michael

AFK | Away From Keyboard

You may see this when you message someone on interoffice chat, and get an automated reply. You might also run into AFD (Away From Desk) and BBL (Be Back Later).

In Conversation: I'll be AFK then but will get back to you after lunch.

WFH | Work From Home

Working from home can be core to a company's structure—like it is for remote teams—or it can be a perk for employees in traditional offices. In the later environment, an employee might write WFH to let co-workers know that they're taking advantage of that perk.

In Conversation: I woke up feeling sick, so I'm WFH today.

COB / EOD | Close of Business / End of Day

This initialism is used to communicate that someone needs something before everyone goes home for the evening. COB is more commonly used because it signifies 5 p.m., where as EOD could be interpreted as "before you tuck in for the night."

If you really want to get fancy, try "EOBD": End of Business Day.

In Conversation: I'll get you an answer about a possible refund by COB today.

NLT | No Later Than

This is a favorite of project managers who want to pair a window of time with a hard deadline.

In Conversation: Please provide a headcount NLT next Friday.

NTE | Not To Exceed

This is the editorial and budgetary version of NLT, and teams a certain flexibility with a specified cap.

In Conversation: Your resume is NTE one page, unless you are a seasoned expert.

TK | To Come

This terminology originated in the writing and editing world—in its earliest days it was used by printers waiting on materials. Its unique combination of letters is purposeful, too: you'll be hard-pressed to find a word that places "T" and "K" next to each other.

Today, TK has found its way into everyday business writing. It's essentially a placeholder for pending information, perfect for when you need to fact-check something before you put it into a document.

In Conversation: Charles Strite invented the toaster in TK, and ever since it's been a household staple.

OOO | Out of Office

Use this term on calendars and include it on automatic email replies to show others you won't be in. Usually OOO means you won't be responsive, but if you are replying to people, include that as well.

In Conversation: I am OOO through New Years Day and will be replying to email intermittently.


With this new shorthand knowledge, hopefully you'll have less IDKs in your daily conversations. Though, FWIW, you should know this list isn't comprehensive. There are thousands more initialisms and acronyms that you could encounter in the workplace—some even carry a double-meaning.

If you an initialism in mind that we didn't include in this list, we encourage you to add a comment below. Or, if you're up for a challenge, write a comment that includes at least four of the acronyms in this list.

Related: Don't Let Tech Lingo Hold You Back: 7 Common Developer Terms Explained

Credits: Alphabet soup photo courtesy Chrissy Wainwright. B2B/C2C photo courtesy TopRank Online Marketing. SEO photo courtesy Thos Ballantyne. SaaS photo courtesy Anna Metcalfe. CSS photo courtesy Dan Cederholm Zeldman. IPO photo courtesy Anthony Quintano. SMH GIF courtesy Animation Domination High-Def on Giphy.

HT: "The Definitive List of Social Media Acronyms and Abbreviations, Defined" by Kevan Lee of Buffer

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