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The Musk Emails: Acronyms Seriously Suck

A classic old email/rant by Musk emphasizing rational communication at SpaceX.


May 2010

Original Source:  Ashlee Vance's Bio: Elon Musk

Subject: Acronyms Seriously Suck

There is a creeping tendency to use made up acronyms at SpaceX. Excessive use of made up acronyms is a significant impediment to communication and keeping communication good as we grow is incredibly important. [Effective communication is at the core of productivity and growth] Individually, a few acronyms here and there may not seem so bad, but if a thousand people are making these up, over time the result will be a huge glossary that we have to issue to new employees. No one can actually remember all these acronyms and people don’t want to seem dumb in a meeting, so they just sit there in ignorance. This is particularly tough on new employees.

That needs to stop immediately or I will take drastic action — I have given enough warnings over the years. Unless an acronym is approved by me, it should not enter the SpaceX glossary.[Again, creating system to report directly to him] If there is an existing acronym that cannot reasonably be justified, it should be eliminated, as I have requested in the past.

For example, there should be no “HTS” [horizontal test stand] or “VTS” [vertical test stand] designations for test stands. Those are particularly dumb, as they contain unnecessary words. A “stand” at our test site is obviously a test stand. VTS-3 is four syllables compared with “Tripod,” which is two, so the bloody acronym version actually takes longer to say than the name!

The key test for an acronym is to ask whether it helps or hurts communication. An acronym that most engineers outside of SpaceX already know, such as GUI, is fine to use. It is also ok to make up a few acronyms/contractions every now and again, assuming I have approved them, e.g., MVac and M9 instead of Merlin 1C-Vacuum or Merlin 1C-Sea Level, but those need to be kept to a minimum.


Read more Elon Musk emails

Checkout The Musk Emails: The Definitive Collection

 

The Musk Emails: Financial Transparency

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