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NLT: Another Abbreviation to Avoid

Updated on August 19th, 2021

NLT Stands for “Not Later Than”

Here’s why you should avoid it, a little story on this:

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?

If you want a full list of acronyms, you can find one here

Syntax Training

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

33 comments on “NLT: Another Abbreviation to Avoid”

  • Hi Lynn,

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


  • My nephew texted me OMW for “on my way.” Informal context, I found myself tempted to use it in text but not email.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Elephant, you are correct. It IS best to avoid abbreviations unless you are certain that your readers will understand them.

    OOTB–that is one I had never heard and certainly would not have understood it.


  • 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! 🙂

  • 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.”

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

  • 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.

  • 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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