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Quiz Time

2013 March 12

By Donna Heron, Region 3

Can you figure out the meaning of the sentence below … without doing some research?

The RPM checked CERCLIS to see what year the RI/FS, the PRAP and the ROD were completed at the NPL site.

Trying to read a document or email filled with unfamiliar acronyms is like trying to read an unknown foreign language. First you have to translate, then you have to go back and read it again before you can figure out what the writer was trying to say. Acronyms, however, are useful conveniences. They save space, they same time and they have been around since before the Roman Empire.

Over time, acronyms can also turn into everyday words with no one remembering what those letters originally stood for, such as: radar (Radio Detection and Ranging), scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) and lasar (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). And, to make matters worse, some people pronounce the acronyms by saying the letters, like N-P-D-E-S, whereas other people pronounce them like they would sound if they were a word, like Nip-dees. Is your head spinning?

The federal government is often blamed for the proliferation of acronyms. But, there has been a plain language movement in the federal government. Starting with President Nixon, many presidents have issued rules and orders to write in plain language, to make regulations less bureaucratic. On October 13, 2010, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010. The law requires that federal agencies use “clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.”

We’re trying. We know that besides the public having problems understanding government-eze, our new employees also have problems.

So, where can you go to figure it all out?

Go to EPA’s home page ( About half way down the page, on the left side under the map, you’ll see “More Resources.” The third item down in light blue type is “Glossary, Acronyms.” Click there.

Or, type the acronym into an EPA search box.

Or, go to your favorite search engine, type in the acronym and epa.

That should do it!

About the Author: Donna Heron started her career with EPA in 1999 after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter in the Philadelphia area for many years. She works in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region as a Press Officer providing information to the media on RCRA cleanups, pesticides, TRI, NEPA, wetlands and sustainability.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Annie permalink
    March 12, 2013

    I work in the field so I actually understood! NPDES is hilarious especially when you try to say it out loud, everyone always gets the order confused! National pollutant discharge elimination system! This is a cool new feature thanks!

  2. Arman.- permalink
    March 12, 2013

    In Future : All Acronyms, All Slang…….!

    Internet brings us to simple languages,even new symbols.Who knows the people shall think and reach their mind by acronyms and slang, who agreed by the people worldwide. This situation could be felt if people will have journeying inter-planets……!

  3. Orange County Online Marketing permalink
    March 13, 2013

    Great idea to add the acronyms page!! It’s great to have a tab to look at and pull the acronym I’m looking for.

    I will say it’s still hard to find, even though you gave the info to look down the middle of the page. You might want to think about giving it it’s own page tab on the menu bar – to make it easier to find. Just a thought.

  4. Angelina permalink
    March 21, 2013

    If you use the link to ‘Glossary, Acronyms’ on, you will be able to search nearly 10,000 EPA acronyms. There are also thousands of EPA terms and definitions from across many different program glossaries available! Sometimes search engines do not provide the same robust results.

  5.,i,uroda/lula,exilis,salon,kosmetyczny,bialystok,s,805/ permalink
    April 11, 2013

    Very good written post. It will be valuable to anyone who usess it, as well as me. Keep up the good work – can’r wait to read more posts.

  6. Carol permalink
    July 20, 2013

    I absolutely agree. One shoul absolutely avoid this kind of writting – people seem just to go dumb in the computer era and think that all other people are obliged to understand their shorcuts. Everyone has problems, there is nothing we can do. But who cares.

  7. online marketing permalink
    November 2, 2013

    Thanks for Sharing this Great tips for How to Write Article for Newbies,Very Good Post

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