19 Common Business English Abbreviations to Know

Katie Almeida Spencer
Post by Katie Almeida Spencer
Originally published November 9, 2022, updated October 20, 2023
19 Common Business English Abbreviations to Know

There are SO MANY business English abbreviations, or acronyms, out there. No one can know them all, and I’ve often had to seek clarification about their meaning.

That said, knowing some common business English abbreviations can really help you to understand and participate in business English discussions and business emails fluently and effectively.

What is an acronym?

An acronym is an abbreviation formed by the first letters of the phrase it represents. Acronyms can be pronounced like a word, though most in this article aren’t.

Let’s look at some examples of common business English abbreviations and business acronyms.

19 Common Business English Abbreviations (Acronyms)

  1. ASAP - As soon as possible. I don’t love this one because it is vague jargon. It’s better to be more specific and give a deadline. That said, you will hear this one a lot, both as A-S-A-P and pronounced as a word, so it’s good to know what it means.

  2. CYA - This one is a bit rude. Originally it meant “cover your ass” but now it sometimes means “cover your actions.” It means to diffuse responsibility or consider the outcome and potential responsibility of your actions. For me, this often means making sure to document everything and consider all the potential audiences of my emails or other business documents.

  3. CRM - Customer relationship management. A CRM encompasses strategies, tools, and processes to manage company relationships and interactions. These relationships can be with current and potential customers. 

  4. ETA - As if acronyms aren’t confusing enough, this one has two possible meanings: “Edited to add” and “Estimated time of arrival.” I would say “estimated time of arrival" is more common.

  5. EOD - End of day. Generally, this means 5 p.m. in the time zone of the sender/writer.

  6. B2B - Business to business. This is used in marketing, as in marketing between businesses.

  7. B2C - Business to customer. This is also used in marketing, i.e., marketing from a business directed at a customer.

  8. FTE - Full-time employee or full-time equivalent. This generally refers to someone who works 40 hours a week. So, 0.75 FTE would be 30 hours per week.

  9. KISS - Originally, Keep It Simple Stupid, it’s now been reframed to be “Keep it super simple” or “Keep it short and simple." The background for this is really interesting, and as you’d expect from the US, it stems from the military.

  10. KPI - Key performance indicator. This is a quantifiable measure of company success. Common KPIs include Return on Investment, Average Response Time, and Quality Rate.

  11. OOO - Out of office. You may see this in “OOO message.” This is never pronounced as a word or even said as an acronym because it sounds awkward either way. You’ll only see this in writing.

  12. PTO - Paid time off. Many companies do not use sick or vacation time anymore. They have simplified this to one chunk of PTO (paid time off).

  13. NSFW - Not Safe for Work. This has come about as a result of the proliferation of social media, memes, and social networks. Some articles or images may be labeled NSFW, meaning they should not be opened at work.

  14. WFH - Work from home. This is a fairly new acronym that came about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the number of people who transitioned to remote work.

  15. ROI - Return on investment. This is a performance measure used to measure the profitability of an investment, whether that is training for your employees or a more traditional financial investment. ROI measures the cost of the investment against the gain.

  16. CTA - Call to action. This is often used in marketing to talk about the end of an email, commercial, or advertisement - what do you want to customer to do? The call to action is a written directive nudging them to do just that. A very clear example is a “Buy Now!” button on a website, but a call to action may also be in the last paragraph of an email.

  17. PR - Public relations. The Public Relations Society of America defines PR as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their public.” PR departments manage the image of a company or person. You may hear that something is a “PR nightmare.” This means that someone in the organization or the organization as a whole did something that damaged their reputation tremendously.

  18. HR - Human Resources. The Human Resources (HR) department exists to deal with all hiring, firing, and employment-related paperwork and problems. HR protects both the employee and the employer from potential legal problems.

  19. R&D - Research and Development. R&D is usually the first step in the process of innovating and introducing new products and services.

Why use abbreviations or acronyms? And when?

Common business acronyms, or business English abbreviations, can make your writing more efficient IF everyone in the communication understands what they mean. In writing, it’s helpful to use the term first and put the acronym in parentheses, then just use the acronym on subsequent mentions. For example,

Be sure that your call to action (CTA) is clear and direct. We don’t want people stumbling around the end of the email not knowing what to do because the CTA isn’t obvious.

The business English abbreviations in this post are used commonly across fields and industries, so knowing them can improve your fluency and business English writing efficiency. Do you want to learn more about common abbreviations and English expressions while improving your business writing skills? Sign up for our English Business Writing course here! 


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Katie Almeida Spencer
Post by Katie Almeida Spencer
Originally published November 9, 2022, updated October 20, 2023
Katie is an experienced Business Writing and English as a Second Language instructor, business writing coach, and teacher trainer. She taught Business and Academic Writing at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Rhode Island and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts Boston.