The other day in a business writing class, I read an abbreviation that perplexed me. Here is the sentence:
We need your contributions by the COB on December 14.
The writer, Linda, was asking for contributions for an adopt-a-family holiday program. Do you recognize COB? I strained my brain to think of what it might be, but I could not come up with anything.
Linda was surprised by my ignorance. She thought everyone would recognize COB as “close of business,” as in the close of the business day. But I know the close of the business day as EOD, “end of day.”
Linda countered that everyone in her organization uses COB, so the employees, her readers, will have no difficulty understanding her message. Or will they? A coworker pointed out that COB has another meaning in their organization: California-Oregon border.
I wondered for a moment whether any employees might leave their contributions by the California-Oregon border. I have to admit that is extremely unlikely, but the potential for confusion still exists.
Linda agreed and simplified her sentence:
We need your contributions by noon on December 14.
That approach will work fine as long as her readers are in the same time zone.
Take a moment to check your writing for abbreviations and acronyms. Will your readers know that DC is the distribution center, or will they be thinking of the District of Columbia, discount code, or Divorce Court? Make it easy for them. Spell it out.