A local car repair job has one of those changeable signs, and this week they were promoting a special on something called LOF. I’ve eaten lox, but not lof. Or maybe it’s an animal of some sort.

No, it’s actually auto technician shorthand for “lube, oil and filter.” Most of us refer to LOF as an oil change, and that’s the term we recognize. How many potential customers driving by this business realized there was a great deal on oil changes? I’d wager many people glanced at the sign, figured they didn’t need a LOF right now, and drove on.

That kind of shorthand is common these days in nearly every industry and profession, and using it with the public is a mistake. Another example? The vet’s office recently mentioned that one of our pets needed to be “NPO” the night before a procedure. I knew that meant no food or water, but how many pet owners would?

If you want to communicate effectively with prospects, customers, or any other stakeholders, you need to speak in their language. Never assume that they understand your language. Save the shorthand and the jargon for your co-workers or employees.