Efficient v. Effective Communication?

Some may argue that the use of acronyms when discussing environmental issues is much more efficient. The question is whether it is an effective means of communication?  Recently I received a text message from a client asking me for advice. The message looked similar to this:

To get an LDP from the LGA you need an approved ESC plan with a CRLD identified and if it is >1-acre  you have to get coverage under the CGP aka VAR10 from the VDEQ in accordance with the VSMP regulations. The CGP requires a SWPPP including the P2 plan. A hard copy of the SWPPP, with approved ESC and SWM plans and P2 plan, must be available onsite. 

Did it make any sense to you? Did you feel like you got the information quicker than if it was all spelled out, or did it just add confusion?

The use of acronyms makes the statement very concise. Only a few of you reading this would have any idea what any of it means. It is only effective to those who are experienced in the environmental and engineering world.   We can provide a list of abbreviations like the one below but then you’d have to  cross reference the acronym with the meaning every time you came across one you didn’t know.

List of Acronyms:

  • LDP –Land Disturbance Permit
  • LGA – Local Government Authority
  • ESC – Erosion Sediment Control
  • CRLD – Certified Responsible Land Disturber
  • greater than
  • < less than
  • Chesbay – Chesapeake Bay Act
  • Regs – Regulations
  • sf – square feet
  • CGP – Construction General Permit
  • Aka – also known as
  • VAR 10 – General VPDES Permit for Discharges of Stormwater From Construction Activities
  • VDEQ – Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
  • VSMP – Virginia Stormwater Management Program
  • SWPPP – Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan
  • P2 – Pollution Prevention
  • SWM – Stormwater Management

The example below shows the exact same paragraph only I’ve spelled out every acronym and attached the acronym to it in parenthesis. While it looks much longer it will read quicker than having to make your brain try to remember what each acronym stands for.

To get a Land Disturbance Permit (LDP) from the Local Government Authority (LGA) you need an approved Erosion Sediment Control (ESC) plan with a Certified Responsible Land Disturber (CRLD) identified and if it is greater than 1-acre, you have to get coverage under the Construction General Permit (CGP) also known as VAR10 from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) in accordance with the Virginia Stormwater Management Program (VSMP) regulations. The Construction General Permit (CGP) requires a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) including the Pollution Prevention (P2) plan. A hard copy of the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), with approved Erosion Sediment Control (ESC) and Stormwater Management (SWM) plans and Pollution Prevention (P2) plan, must be available onsite.

While twice as long, it is far more understandable than the acronym laden version, therefore much more effective at communicating with a wider audience.

It is important to know your audience in order to communicate effectively. Judicious use of acronyms and abbreviations can provide both effective and efficient communication but can be of little use if it makes no sense to the reader.