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We often use acronyms and initialisms, whether in spoken language or in written conversations. They are so integrated in our daily life, in our habits that we sometimes forget their origins. Indeed, not all the acronyms we use are of French origin.
Some of them come directly from the English culture. When you are a novice in this world of abbreviated words, it is not always easy to find your way around. Don’t panic, I’m coming to the rescue and I’m going to explain an acronym that you may have seen during email exchanges: FYI.
What is the purpose of an acronym?
First of all, let me explain the principle of an acronym. An acronym is made up of the first letters of each word in a phrase, and this set of letters in turn forms a word. You can combine the first letters of words or the first syllables. The purpose of this new word formation is to save time in conversations. Today, the acronym is very common. Whether in professional or private exchanges, they have invaded the sphere of communication. The other advantage of an acronym is that it can be a mnemonic tool.
Be careful, however, not to confuse acronyms with acronyms. Unlike an acronym, an acronym is composed of initials and can be pronounced letter by letter. FBI is an acronym and POV is an acronym. We all learned little words or phrases in school to better record a math formula or a grammar principle (the famous ORNICAR!).
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The FYI acronym
Now that you know a little more about the world of acronyms, I’m going to get down to the nitty-gritty of the term FYI. Its origin is English and literally means “For Your Information”. It can be translated into French as “Pour votre information” or “bon à savoir”, the aim being to draw the recipient’s attention to the information that will follow. It is very frequently used in professional exchanges. It is used to communicate information without requiring a response from the recipient. You will find the term in this way for example: “FYI, the meeting will be tomorrow at 9am”. However, it is good to know that this term, because of its English nature, will be more easily understood and used on the other side of the Atlantic. However, it is often used in correspondence in France, although it is not always understood.
The origins of FYI
FYI is one of a group of acronyms that originated before the internet. This tool has given them a new lease of life and has brought them up to date. The term originated in the 1930s. It was used by journalists in their cable messages at the time. Its purpose was to specify to the recipient that the message was intended only for the person who received it and not for publication in newspapers. The advent of the web has brought this term out of oblivion and back into use in corporate email exchanges. The term can also be found in business documents.
How to use the acronym FYI?
E-mail exchanges are very frequent between employees of a company or between management and employees. As the days are very busy, it is convenient to use all the means to go as fast as possible while remaining efficient and understandable. This is why the use of acronyms is very useful in these cases. This way, instructions are transmitted more quickly to other team members.
Unlike some other acronyms, the term FYI does not necessarily belong at the end of an email. It is not used like the famous NB (Nota Bene which is used to add a forgotten note at the end of a letter, or the more known PS, Post Scriptum). The principle is to place it at the beginning of a sentence in order to launch the information afterwards.
If the information needs to be explained, you place the term at the beginning of the paragraph and, once finished, you move on to another paragraph. This makes it easier to point out to the person you are talking to that additional information is being given, which sometimes makes it easier to read some rather long letters or documents. However, depending on the person, the use of this type of acronym may seem inappropriate, even improper. I will explain this to you right away.
When is the use of FYI inappropriate?
As we have just seen, the use of FYI in business dealings has become a norm and a habit. Therefore, there will be no negative consequences in this context.
On the other hand, the use of this type of term outside the professional context may seem inappropriate. It should be noted that a certain number of people are not fans of acronyms or abbreviations in written or oral conversations. This phenomenon is particularly widespread in the adult population. This is simply due to the fact that they did not grow up with this habit, unlike the younger generation that has evolved with the Internet, SMS, and other more modern means.
The reluctance of some people to use FYI is also due to the fact that the term has a somewhat crude, derogatory connotation. Culturally, when someone says “FYI” to you, it’s more of a curt tone, it sounds more like an order than a piece of information. So this type of expression can be misunderstood by a large part of the adult population.
In conclusion, you should remember that the acronym FYI has more of a professional than a private use. If you want to use it in a private context, make sure that the recipient(s) are familiar with this kind of term. This way, you can avoid long explanations of why and how. Acronyms are above all practical tools that save time while remaining understandable. Don’t forget also that its English origin can be an obstacle in its use in France with certain professionals.