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Deciphering Business Abbreviations in North America

Monday | May 4, 2020 | by WES Advisor

business abbreviations

You’ve received an email from your manager that says she’s WFH today. Does that mean she’s in a bad mood?

Fortunately, no—it simply means your manager is “working from home.” In fact, office closures during these unprecedented times have many people working from home or other remote locations. It’s possible that the abbreviation “WFH” may become a lot more widely known, even to those who don’t work in an office setting.

WFH is just one of many abbreviations commonly used in the business world in the United States and Canada. If you aren’t a native speaker of English, you may struggle to understand the vocabulary, phrases, and abbreviations that make up this jargon.

Business jargon (or lingo, or slang) can be confusing because some phrases are typically expressed as acronyms—abbreviations formed by the initial letters of the words and pronounced as words. Many more are initialisms, which pronounce each letter of the abbreviation.

You will often see this shorthand used in emails and text messages, because it rapidly and efficiently communicates ideas and concepts.

This blog post defines many abbreviations from the business world that you’ll come across in the U.S. and Canada. First, we describe those that are frequently used to communicate deadlines, schedules, and time frames. Then we define terms used in human resources, management, and professional development.

Abbreviations to Express Time

ETA: This shortened form of “estimated time of arrival” is typically used in reference to travel or to track when a package will arrive. However, ETA is also increasingly used in the business world to refer to the completion date of a work project.

For example, your manager may ask about a project’s ETA. In this scenario, the manager wants to know the estimated date or time of the project’s completion.

COB: Stands for “close of business.” If your manager says a report is needed by COB, you should turn it in no later than the end of the business day. Standard business hours in the U.S. and Canada are Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

EOD: This term is generally used interchangeably with COB. EOD means “end of day.”

ASAP: This abbreviation conveys urgency; it means “as soon as possible.” It can be pronounced as a word or letter by letter.

STAT: A synonym of ASAP, this term is also used to indicate urgency. It means “now” or “immediately.”

YTD: Short for “year to date.” You’ll often see this term used for reporting on and tracking yearly progress.

For example, your manager may ask you to submit a report showing how much company revenue has increased YTD.

Human Resources Terms

HR: Short for “human resources.” An organization’s HR department is in charge of managing the human capital elements of a business, including hiring and dismissing employees, training job applicants, and managing employee benefit programs.

PTO: Stands for “paid time off” or “personal time off.” Depending on the organization, PTO can refer to different categories of earned time off. For example, many organizations have a PTO policy that encompasses vacation, sick, mental health, and personal days. Others offer a yearly bank of sick days that is separate from the PTO employees accumulate each pay period. It is important to know which PTO policy your organization offers so you can accurately plan vacations and days off from work.

WFH: As stated earlier, this abbreviation stands for “working from home.” It is commonly used when an employee is working away from the office, whether actually at home or at another remote location.

KSA: Short for “knowledge, skills, and abilities.” You will often see this abbreviation in job descriptions. KSAs identify the required experience and education an applicant must possess in order to qualify for a job.

KPI: Short for “key performance indicator.” This is a quantifiable value used to measure goals or targets. In many offices, managers set yearly, quarterly, or monthly KPIs that measure employee or team performance. KPIs also serve as a tool for monitoring progress on a project or activity. When you see the term KPI, know that it’s most commonly used to track goals and business objectives.

SMART: Often used when referring to KPIs and goals, SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.” To measure performance, many employers require employees to develop SMART goals that can easily be tracked over a period of time.

EDP: Larger organizations, in particular, often use employee development plans or EDPs to provide employees with clear direction on how to advance their careers and further develop their skills. An EDP is a document that shows employees how they can move up the career ladder within the organization by achieving certain goals.

PDP: A synonym of EDP, PDP can refer to either a “professional development plan” or a “personal development plan.”

Miscellaneous Vocabulary

FYI: A term that isn’t limited to the business world, FYI means “for your information.” For example, your manager may forward you an email with an important meeting update or a link to a helpful resource, prefacing it with FYI. A message that begins with FYI shares useful information, but does not necessarily warrant a reply or convey urgency.

LMK: Another term often used outside the business world, LMK means “let me know.” This term conveys a casual tone and is often used to end emails or messages. It indicates that the person is expecting a reply.

TBD: This abbreviation means “to be decided” or “to be determined.” It conveys uncertainty and refers to something unknown that will be determined later.

Many of these business abbreviations have become part of the office lexicon in the U.S. and Canada. Knowing what they mean and the tone they convey is essential. We hope this blog post helps you decipher abbreviations that are commonly used in business contexts in North America.

Related Reading

E-Guide: Professional Development Strategies

How Upgrading Your Skills Improves Your Career Prospects

WES Advisor is an initiative of World Education Services, a non-profit organization with over 45 years of experience in international education. We provide advice and resources for international students and skilled immigrants to help them make informed decisions about education, employment, immigration, and integration opportunities in the U.S. and Canada.