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Contemporary English seems to really like abbreviations and acronyms; read a sports page and you will see NBA, NFL, or the NHL. Read the international news and you might see CIA or INTERPOL. CIA is an abbreviation since we say the letters separately, while INTERPOL is an acronym since we say the letters as a word.

The business world especially likes abbreviations and acronyms, which can be really confusing during a meeting. Many English expressions are also used in business. Native English speakers tend to forget at an international staff meeting that many of the staff may not automatically know what the abbreviations and acronyms mean.

Below is a list of 30 of the more common business abbreviations and acronyms you may hear. Every field has its own special ones, but these are terms that are common to most areas of business.

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The 30 English acronyms you need to know in business


You will often see these abbreviations on organizational charts or on business cards. We usually say the two or three letters; we don’t say them as words.

  1. CEO – Chief Executive Officer
  2. CAO – Chief Accounting Officer
  3. CFO – Chief Financial Officer
  4. CIO – Chief Information Officer
  5. CMO – Chief Marketing Officer
  6. COO – Chief Operating Officer
  7. CTO – Chief Technology Officer
  8. CA – Chartered Account
  9. VP– Vice President of a department or company


These ones may appear on documents, on visuals during meetings or be said by a fellow staff member. You might here ‘letter of credit’ said as an L C (say the two letters).

  1. ACCT – Account
  2. A/R – Accounts Receivable
  3. LC – Letter of Credit
  4. Pd – Paid

Staff and Organization

These are abbreviations that you commonly see when company staff and organization are being discussed. For these, we say the letters, so we say I-T department, not ‘it department.’

  • A/V – Audio- Visual. 

Careful with this one as AV is used for adult videos in Japan, so if you are emailing a Japanese firm, you might want to use the full word.

  • HR – Human Resources. 

They hire and monitor the company’s staff.

  • IT – Information Technology. 

The computer people.

  • PR – Public Relations. 

The people who talk to the media and make videos or brochures for the public.

  • QC – Quality Control.

They make sure that your products and services are doing what they are supposed to do.

  • R&D – Research and Development. 

They develop new products and services.

Learn the 30 most commonly used acronyms in the world of work.

General Terms

These are abbreviations that you might see in an email or memo at work. In academic work, we are told to define our abbreviations the first time we use them, so the reader knows what we mean. In the English speaking business world, it is typically assumed that everyone already knows, and people often will not ask since they don’t want to appear stupid. 

  1. Attn – Attention this one is used to let you know that you should read the message.
  2. BPC – Business Planning Cycle
  3. ETA – Estimated Time of Arrival
  4. HQ – Headquarters- the head office of the company.
  5. Pls – Please
  6. Qty – Quantity
  7. TBD – To Be Determined. It means that we don’t know the details such as time, date or full cost yet.
  8. Thx – Thanks
  9. Ttl – Total
  10. W/O – Without
  11. YTD – Year To Date

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