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February 27, 2013


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Not Later Than

Lilli Misic

Hi Lynn,

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



No Later Than ?

Shelley Manes

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


Netherlands Time?!


Nice legs tanned?

R. Selvaraju

I am in Canada. So, New Foundland and Labrador Time?

Marie Kreft

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!

Lisa Marie

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!


Lazy and dumb.


NLT is a military abbreviation.

Business Writing Blog

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.



Lots abbreviation in Logistics!


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.

Business Writing Blog

Elisa, thank you for that excellent example of what NOT to do.

I believe "POB" must be "place of birth." I am not surprised that you had to search for the meaning online.



I don't understand why people use the acronyms in the email:

NLT - Not later than
PFA- Please find attached

Business Writing Blog

Ragu, I have not seen PFA before. That is a great one to avoid!



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.

Business Writing Blog

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.



what about "I'm" in an email instead of "I am" what is better?

Thanks in advance.


Business Writing Blog

Hello Fabrizio,

The contraction "I'm" is informal and friendly. When you need to communicate more formally, your choice should be "I am."



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! :-)

Business Writing Blog

Thanks for the good (bad) example, Louise.



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."

Business Writing Blog

Yes, you are lucky to have a context that helps you.



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

Business Writing Blog

Perhaps it's a typo and should read "not less than."

Frustrated Academic

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.

Business Writing Blog

Hi Frustrated,

I'm with you on this subject.



Just another over use of TLA's (Three Letter Acronyms).

James Preis

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.

Business Writing Blog

Hi James,

I agree. And on behalf of blog readers, thank you for the reminder about "acronym" and "initialism."


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