Thursday, April 19, 2018
Publication Date: 07/1/2009
Archive >  July 2009 Issue >  Tech-Op-Ed > 

A Plateful of Acronyms
Walter Salm, Editor
One of the more frustrating aspects of publishing an electronics industry magazine is trying to figure out just what a company is saying in a press release. This problem is often compounded and confounded by the use of obscure or made-up-on-the-spot acronyms that are very meaningful to the product manager, but meaningless to me as a person who's supposed to know everything under the sun.

I ran across this problem again and again in preparation of this issue of U.S. Tech but especially in a product release that referred to an application in "FPD productions". I checked my personal acronym list, which keeps growing every month, with no success.

So I Googled it and was sent to this particular website: which presented me with a list of 33 possible meanings, with the strong hint that there were many more three-word combinations that could yield this same acronym. There were four in the list that looked like possibilities, after I discarded Frederick Police Department, as well as Police Departments from Flagstaff, Fargo, Flint and Ferndale. So which one was correct: Flat Panel Display, Front Panel Display, Future Product Development, or Fabrication and Prototype Design? Certainly not Federacao Paulista de Disco. I tended to gravitate toward Food Product Development, since my computer sits only about five feet away from the refrigerator, and it was getting to be around snack time (10 p.m. on a Sunday night), but decided that this, along with Flight Planning Document and Foundations for People Development were whimsical at best.

Since I was stuck, I finally followed a golden rule of publishing that I learned many, many years ago on my very first publishing job at Gernsback Publications: "When in doubt, leave it out." So I left out the FPD acronym with a promise to myself that as soon as we went to press, I would call the PR person involved and ask. I would also mention that the company's press release gave me the much-needed subject matter for this month's editorial. Would that the writer of that particular press release have included in parentheses: Feet Per Day, or Force Protection Detachment, or Fixed Partial Denture, or Fonda Police Department, whatever.

Since we rely so heavily on press releases for our information and news, we often have to play a detective game, because virtually no press release ever contains everything we need or would like to see. In this month's Marketing feature, veteran publicist Mike Martel talks about giving the editor what he (or she) really needs if you want your release to be used. What he did not say is that editors are basically lazy; they want to be able to use the material with as little actual work expenditure as possible.

That being said, every press release we receive at U.S. Tech requires some kind of editing and massaging. We rarely receive one that's written in our preferred editorial style, and when I do get the rare press release that requires minimal work, I breathe a sigh of relief and thankfulness that someone was thoughtful enough to send me a real jewel. But even then, I have to add editorial styling and typesetting symbols for our art director's benefit.

Some press releases ramble on and on with so much descriptive material and so many specs and applications that I am convinced that the writer was being paid by the word, and I end up I end up having to cut out as much as 80 percent of the text. Such a waste. That could have been a feature article, or at least a Production or Partnering column. Then at the other end of the spectrum are the super-short one-liners which almost convey the impression that the writer is ashamed to write about his/her company's new product or development. These people need to hire a PR specialist.

Fortunately there are still plenty of people sending press releases, and we want to encourage all of our readers who have something to promote to send us theirs. These days, it's virtually free of charge to send, using the Internet. I can remember working after hours, making 200 Xerox copies of a press release and running them all through the folding machine before stuffing them, with 4 x 5 photographs, into the waiting stack of number 10 envelopes — with their address labels already pasted on, just waiting for their contents and the postage meter. And or course we had to get it all done before the Post Office made its final pickup of the day. It took planning and logistics, hours of preparation, poring over copies of Bacon's Publicity Checker, ticking off the publications we wanted to target, and then feeding the information to our typist to set up the label files. It was all part of the game in the days before the Internet. Times have changed dramatically, and a successful press campaign today is only an Internet click away. Even the photos go free. But somebody has to write the stuff and take the digital pictures.  

 1) Great Article!

Add your comment:

Full Name:

search login