Acronyms and jargon can kill your message

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

Have you ever read an email subject line or seen a news broadcast that referred to something by its acronym – and it’s one you’ve never heard before?

I sure have. Just this morning a news broadcaster was mentioning the impact of no comprehensionsomething. But I don’t know what it was because he referred to it by its acronym. I asked my husband if he had any idea what they were talking about. Nope. No clue. He likes to channel surf, so away it went.

Once in a while I become curious enough to try to look it up, but not often. When it comes to acronyms, I’ve found that the same ones can sometimes apply to a large number of topics. Sometimes the topics are even related.

So – before you can figure out what they’re talking about, you have to know what they’re talking about.

When you want to convey information, be clear.

Before I write an agent bio, I ask agents to fill out a questionnaire, and now and then someone will refer to past employment or a college by an acronym that I don’t recognize. I always try researching first to find out what it means, but sometimes I have to give up and ask.

I specifically ask them to write out the full names of their designations, because I don't have them all memorized, and the letters alone will mean nothing to prospects.

When you use acronyms in your marketing messages your audience will probably guess that they have something to do with real estate, but will they care enough to find out exactly what it means?

And if they don’t know what you meant, will it affect the meaning or impact of your sales message? I think so. If nothing else, it will annoy your readers, because none of us appreciates being made to feel ignorant.

Real estate jargon can also confuse and annoy your clients.

Grown people should know enough to ask questions, but many people won’t, save jargon for speaking with other professionalsbecause they don’t want others to think they’re ignorant.

So – you can be rambling on using real estate jargon and terminology while they’re sitting there nodding their heads and wondering what it all means.

Take the time to explain words that might be unfamiliar to non-real estate people. Better yet, create a hand-out sheet that explains the words they’re going to hear. While you’re at it, why not create a time-line for them to follow along from offer to possible counter offers, to acceptance – and then to the appraisal, the inspection, conditional loan approval, walk-through, etc.

Did you know that common use of the word “escrow” means different things in different parts of the country? It does, so if you’re in the West and your clients are from the East, they may not understand what you’re saying.

People do like to feel like they’re in control of a situation and understand what they’re doing. So make it easy for them.

Make your communication as clear as possible - and avoid acronyms and jargon when you can.

Comments (20)

Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Marte, we do have to be very careful, especially with our first-timers, as they have no clue at all.

May 17, 2022 05:21 PM
Marte Cliff

Yes, Joan. And when people don't know what you mean, they're annoyed. Some will ask, but others won't. They'll just want to avoid you!

May 19, 2022 06:37 PM
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
Fathom Realty Washington LLC - Tacoma, WA
South Puget Sound Washington Agent/Broker!

I have found prospecting letters that even confuse me with some of their jargon and abbreviations. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and opinions Marte 🙂

May 17, 2022 08:07 PM
Marte Cliff

Thanks Paul. When we use acronyms and jargon all the time, it's easy to forget that some people don't know what we mean.

May 19, 2022 06:38 PM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Marte - now that you mention this many companies have their own jargon.  Sometimes they use the jargon with an outsider.

May 17, 2022 08:54 PM
Marte Cliff

Yes they do, Grant. It's an easy mistake to make.

May 19, 2022 06:38 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Marte it annoys me to no extent the abbreviations.... keep in mind here in California we have about 50+ documents in a transaction and the abbreviations drive me crazy I feel worse for the buyers and sellers so I go out of my way not to do it. Endre

May 17, 2022 11:20 PM
Marte Cliff

50+ documents - how awful. When I started in real estate in 1985, listings and purchase and sale agreements were each one page - legal size. The "small print" was actually small print, on the reverse. Few ever read it.

May 19, 2022 06:39 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

I totally agree. Using acronyms or company jargon is just confusing, and the last thing we should try to do is confuse people.

May 18, 2022 05:12 AM
Marte Cliff

Kat - clarity in communication is vitally important. We all need to remember that.

May 19, 2022 06:40 PM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Excellent advice, Marte (as always). I hate jargon and it really grates on me when I hear agents speak what I call "realtoreze."

May 18, 2022 05:13 AM
Leanne Smith
Dirt Road Real Estate - Golden Valley, AZ
Relocation to NW AZ with elbow room & more freedom

Great reminder. I remember someone talking about ADA in education and a person said what does the American Dairy Association have to do with education. Not everyone knows all these acronyms and many acronyms share the same letters as in ADA but entirely different meanings. Thank you Marte Cliff 

May 18, 2022 05:51 AM
Marte Cliff

Yes Leanne. When agents use acronyms in completing my agent bio questionnaire I always try to find the meaning before I ask. Sometimes there will be 10 or more different choices for what they might have meant!

May 19, 2022 06:41 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Marte- I've run across this as well. Often by the time I've Googled to see what the acronym meant, I've lost interest. 

May 18, 2022 11:04 AM
Marte Cliff

Kathy - I don't Google to find the answer unless it's important - as in when I'm trying to comprehend an agent's questionnaire answers. Otherwise, I just ignore it and go on to something else.

May 19, 2022 06:43 PM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

Thank you very much, Marte, for sharing your experience and your advice.

May 21, 2022 04:41 AM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Marte. Could not agree more! Nothing worse than not having a clue! Enjoy your day.

May 21, 2022 05:20 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude


This is such good advice for all of use to keep in mind. It's easy, because we use real-estate-ese all the time to forget that buyers and sellers may not have a clue, and we should not assume they do, even if they don't ask. We even see some use of area-specific acronyms here on AR from time to time.


May 21, 2022 11:09 AM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Marte,

It is interesting dealing with out-of-state clients.  You have to be careful and make sure they understand.  I usually preface the first conversation with the Arizona process may not be the same as where they came from.

May 21, 2022 12:33 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

May 21, 2022 06:42 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

We used to refer to all those acronyms as "alphabet soup." This is a topic we've covered in the past.

May 21, 2022 08:42 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Hi Marte,

I'm so glad that Kathy Streib featured your post in her "Ah-Ha" moments for the week, as I missed it. Very important to be as clear as possible. Nothing worse than people having no clue what you are referring to, especially in real estate. The process varies from state to state and we need to explain how it works in our state.

May 22, 2022 07:30 AM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster Real Estate - Gainesville, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

This is such fantastic advice.  Every time I write a market report, I let folks know what the terms mean, like seller subsidy, that they may not be familiar with.

May 22, 2022 07:50 AM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster Real Estate - Gainesville, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Featured in the group:  BARTENDER, MAKE IT A DOUBLE.

May 22, 2022 07:51 AM
Anna "Banana" Kruchten
HomeSmart Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ

Hi Marte thankfully I figured this out early on in my career. Years ago I started listening to business news and I had no freaking idea of what this or that meant......BINGO!  The light went off in my head!

May 22, 2022 11:58 AM
Diana Dahlberg
1 Month Realty - Pleasant Prairie, WI
Real Estate in Kenosha, WI since 1994 262-308-3563

Acronyms can be confusing!  You made an excellent point!  I will try and be more sensitive and be sure whoever I am speaking with understands the things I ramble on about!  Great Post!

May 24, 2022 07:55 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Of course it's important to limit the use of acronyms. I've used "MLS" when speaking to clients and some will ask what that means. As another example, my husband constantly used acronyms when talking about work related topics. He might as well have been speaking another language! I was completely in the dark. So you absolutely are correct about avoiding their use. Thank you!

May 26, 2022 05:50 PM