Quiz Time

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 (www.epa.gov). 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.