Before You Hit Publish, Week 4: Acronyms and Redundancy

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Before I was a copy editor, I worked in customer service for Broadman and Holman (now just B&H) Publishing Group–the book, Bible, and church supplies sector of LifeWay. I was a Universal Representative, which meant I took orders and did adjustments for errors. All day, every day, I spoke on the phone with bookstores wishing to order (or complain about) our products.

The other reps and I worked very closely in cubicles. So pretty much I could hear every conversation everyone else had, work-related or otherwise.

All of our products were listed by ISBN. You know, that long number above the bar code on the back of your books? When we took orders, we took them by ISBN.


My number one irritant in that office? Listening to other people ask for the “ISBN number.”

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. Thus, “ISBN number” is redundant.

Also falling under this heading of Common Acronyms People Screw Up by Adding a Word Afterward:

PIN number – PIN is personal identification number
Please RSVP – repondez s’il vous plait is French for “please respond”
ATM machine – ATM is automated teller machine

According to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge, of course, this is actually called “RAS Syndrome“: ironically, Redundant Acronym Syndrome Syndrome.  I find that fairly hilarious.

So please don’t say or write “PIN number.” That’s all. A little request.

Can you think of other examples? Is this something that bothers you or never occurred to you?

If you have questions for future weeks in this series, might be interested in guest posting, or are interested in my editing services (see week 1 for description), e-mail me here!

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Reading Like a Writer: One of my favorite authors is Maeve Binchy. She is an Irish author and writes what I would call “contemporary fiction”–stories based on a set of characters, living out life in modern times, with twists and turns and romance, of course. To me, she is the queen of character development. I can see each character in my head and learn their hearts as they grow. If you’re interested in writing fiction–or even creative nonfiction–this is a crucial skill set.

Some of her books are better than others, but if you’d like to read one I would suggest Tara Road, Circle of Friends, or Echoes.

12 thoughts on “Before You Hit Publish, Week 4: Acronyms and Redundancy

  1. YES! Redundancy (is that a word??) drives me nuts! One that gets used a lot down here in GA is CRCT test. It's our state standardized test and it stands for Criterion Referenced Competency Test…so CRCT test is redundant! Ugh!

  2. PS– What if I said Please, RSVP. Like please, please… begging because people NEVER RSVP and it make me so mad. 🙂

  3. Hmmm… I can certainly see why all of these are incorrect, but I'm not sure that they bother me terribly much. I worked at a bank for years and probably heard "ATM machine" and "PIN number" far more than your average person. Those did not really annoy me. What did? People's insistence on saying "ink pen".

  4. I like this series. Pin number does not bother me. ATM machine does. I guess it's just the way it strikes my ears.

    Ever see "Wordgirl," the cartoon on PBS? We enjoy episodes with Lady Redundant Woman.

    I used to work in the energy utilities field. A common redundancy: hot water heater. Technically, it is a cold water heater 🙂

  5. I love reading these posts, mainly because they let me know that I am not alone in my pet peeves involving improper use of the English language. Also, there is a mall near us, the Livingston Mall. For years it had a sign over it's main entrance that read "LM Mall". Presumably, the "M" in the "LM" stood for mall. My brother and sister and I always (even to this day) called it the Livingston Mall Mall.

  6. I work in IT Operations the acronym redundancy that drives me crazy is CBT Training…. that's Computer Based Training Training.

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