NLT: Another Abbreviation to Avoid

A professor at a nearby university just scheduled an appointment with my daughter. He wrote, "I will meet you at 2 pm, NLT 2:15."

NLT? My daughter searched the college map to figure out which building was NLT or NLT 2. She asked me what else NLT might mean. I had no idea. It might be a building, a performance venue (since she was auditioning), or an abbreviation of another kind. It does not appear in my "Texting Dictionary of Acronyms."

Have you seen NLT before? Do you know what it stands for?

An online search revealed that the professor must have meant he would meet her no later than 2:15. Why didn't he say that?

Lynn
Syntax Training

33 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Lynn,

    What are your thoughts on “LMK” (let me know)?
    I usually avoid abbreviations, but find myself tempted to use this lately.

    Thanks!

  2. I think NLT is confusing as an abbreviation and maybe a little discourteous as a concept. Surely a 2pm meeting should take place at 2pm?! If the professor thought he might arrive late after a lecture or another appointment, why not simply schedule the meeting for 2:15pm? Or was he suggesting that your daughter might be late and that he wouldn’t see her after 2:15pm? Either way, there is something about this communication that emphasises the unequal relationship between professor and student.

    Or maybe I’m reading far too much into it!

  3. I agree with Marie Kreft’s comment that NLT is not only an uncommon abbreviation, but also a bit of a rude idea, too. I am not the most punctual person myself, but I do not think it’s appropriate to leave a 15 minute window when one sets an appointment!

    By the way, when I first read this post on my phone, my eyes caught the “NLT 2:15” and I immediately wondered if that was referencing the chapter 2 and verse 15 in a book in the New Living Translation of the Bible. I guess that’s a perfect example of how abbreviations can mean different things among different groups, and we need to make sure we know our audience!

  4. As someone who works at a public university with former military or federal personnel, I have seen this often.
    It means “No Later Than,” and I usually group it with the other alphabet terms used by this same group. It took some getting used to, and certainly sparked a number of questions!

  5. Thanks, everyone, for weighing in. Yes, I believe the professor meant “no later than.” But as I asked in my post, why didn’t he write that?

    I have worked with hundreds of writers across many industries, yet I have never seen that abbreviation before. I am perplexed that the professor would assume my daughter would recognize it.

    Lilli, you asked about LMK. Only use it if you want to confuse people. I have to admit that it does appear in the “Texting Dictionary of Acronyms,” but that doesn’t mean people will recognize it.

    Shelley, I don’t know how many people know OMW. I would save it for messages to your nephew.

    I love “nice legs tanned” and Netherlands Time. Newfoundland and Labrador Time is also an excellent guess. Sorry–it does not appear in “The Canadian Press Caps and Spelling” book.

    Marie, interesting analysis! In the professor’s defense, let me suggest that he was allowing extra time in case an earlier audition took longer than expected.

    Lisa Marie, how right you are about knowing one’s audience. We would have been quite surprised if the professor had cited a Bible verse.

    Jamie and Liz, thank you for mentioning the military connection. I just looked at several sites that list military abbreviations, and it appeared on each one of them.

    Everyone, thanks for stopping by and sharing your ideas.

    Lynn

  6. Dear Lynn, I discover your site today and I cannot stop reading it.
    I am Italian and I am a multilingual administrative assistant. Our clients know my English is quite good but they forget English is not my native language. Few years ago, before one of my trip, I received an e-mail stating: “pls send us ur full name, dob and pob to get ur badge”. Dob and pob sounded like do’s and dont’s but I had to Google them to understand their meaning.

  7. From your post and all the comments, I’m seeing it’s best to avoid abbreviations unless you know for sure the person you’re writing to will understand them.

    I’ve had people use abbrevs like ‘OOO’ (Out of Office) and ‘EOD’ (end of day) which made no sense to me until I Googled them. I had a woman email me several times referencing ‘OOTB’ functionality for a new system the company was developing; it stood for ‘out of the box’, meaning the base functionality of the system before client customization. I could not figure out what it meant until I asked her.

  8. I received an email today asking about POC responsible for deliveries..
    I took me a few minutes before realizing it meant POINT OF CONTACT.
    All these acronyms are giving me headaches! 🙂

  9. Just received an email that included NLT. The author has many years in both military & federal gov’t. service, so I see plenty of abbreviations from him. Based on the context, it refers to “no later than.”

  10. In USP39NF34(United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary), in the General Chapter , I find NLT and it means “Not Least Than”.

  11. Frankly, I find abbreviations rude unless prefaced with the fully articulated phrase first within the primary document. For example: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I found your blog due to the use of NLT in a university communication. I thought it was a time zone, so I used Google search. Although many are affiliated with military service in the learning community, most professors, most staff and some students do not share that affiliation.

  12. I think context matters? Sure, you can argue that NLT is uncommon in the common vernacular, but if I’m talking to Certified Project Manager, s/he better understand that an NLT date is an initialism for, ‘not/no later than’.

    For the record, an acronym must be pronounceable, e.g. ‘SCUBA’, is an acronym while, ‘WTF’, is an initialism.

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