21 June 2007

Meaningless initials

This one comes up because I receive regular email messages with "CSR" in the subject. Mostly these come from Cambridge Silicon Radio. Well, that was its name but like too many companies it has morphed into a set of cryptic initials.

A quick roam around CSR's web site provides little enlightenment. Even the company's press releases are silent on the subject.

This is dangerous. I once managed to use the name British Technology Group in an article I wrote for the Financial Times some time after the company became BTG plc.

Companies can reduce the likelihood of that sort of thing by using a phrase along the lines of "formerly known as Cambridge Silicon Radio". Just put it in the "About us" bit that seems to be an obligatory appendage to every press release these days.

In time the message sticks. It is most unlikely that anyone would mistakenly write "Imperial Chemical Industries" in an article. (Given the latest news they may even have to give up writing ICI.)

But back to those initials. Today's email brought a message from something called "article 13" with the subject "CBI CSR case studies - latest batch launched". I know what CBI stands for, but what about CSR?

The text of the message, including the web version, offers no clues. So over to the web site where we read that CSR stands for corporate social responsibility.

They actually spell it out in this non sentence "Typically in the areas of governance, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable development." What they really meant to do was to put a comma at the end of the previous sentence "We are strategic advisors on risk associated with business responsibility." But let's not get too picky.

There's nothing wrong with writing about corporate social responsibility and using CSR as a shortcut, but it is usually a good idea to explain what you are up to in email messages that people might want to pass on to someone else. I mean, if someone thinks that it stands for Cambridge Silicon Radio, you will have a very baffled reader.

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