DYA Because Too Many TLAs are Confusing

December 27, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Posted in NAHSL Annual Meeting 2013, Professional Development | 1 Comment

You may have just read the title of this blog and said “huh?” That is how people that you are presenting to may feel as well. When Clark Merrill from Dale Carnegie spoke at the NAHSL 2013 Annual Meeting, which I was able to attend because of a NAHSL Professional Development Award, he advised not to use too many TLAs, or Three Letter Acronyms. He warned that you might lose the audience because of confusion or misunderstanding.

Before working in a hospital, I worked in a non-profit public health setting, and as you can imagine, there were acronyms aplenty. The place I worked had three levels of acronyms of agency names to get through before you named the project itself (EDC>HHD>SPRC and funded by SAMHSA, which was part of DHHS). Ask me sometime and I can give you the full names!

To help alleviate confusion, we had a saying: “Define Your Acronym” or “DYA”. If you were in a meeting and someone was using an acronym that you had never heard before you could call out “DYA”. This was a wonderful tool for in-house meetings, but it just isn’t always possible to go around shouting DYA at conferences, in clinical rounds, or during medical reference interviews. I will never forget when I started at the hospital and the surgery students were discussing AAA (abdominal aortic aneurysm) and I all I pictured was an AAA (Automobile Association of America) tow truck.

So, be please be mindful to DYA. If someone else does not do the same, I have listed some resources below that may help guide you through the acronyms of our trade. It is by no means an exhaustive list, just a quick list that you may find useful.

Medical Library Association Style Guide – this is not all acronyms, but I found it interesting/useful nonetheless in terms of our profession(not to me confused with MLA-Modern Language Association Citation Style)


Appendix B: Some Common Abbreviations

Medline Plus


List of Error-Prone Abbreviations, Symbols, and Dose Designations

Institute of Safe Medication Practices


Medical Acronyms, Initialisms, Alphabetisms and other Abbreviations



 MediLexicon Abbreviations

MediLexicon International Ltd -UK



Lori Bradshaw, MSLIS, AHIP
Saint Mary’s Hospital
Waterbury, CT


1 Comment »

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  1. Thanks, Lori. Very helpful.

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