How abbreviations can hurt recall


While passing through one of the Orange Line stations in downtown Chicago, I saw a billboard promoting the state of Montana. More specifically, the ad featured a striking mountain shot, a few words of text, and a web address. The last item caught my eye, with the URL

The web address is short, which tends to make it easier to remember. But the use of a relatively unfamiliar abbreviation — “mt” for Montana — will probably hurt recall. Ultimately, this makes the resulting short address less effective than a longer one. And what would the longer one be? It seems like is the obvious choice.

Generally, it’s best to avoid using unfamiliar abbreviations or acronyms in your marketing and products. Unless an abbreviation is very popular, then expecting people to remember the short version reduces the chance that they’ll reach your website or complete the desired task with your product. Returning to the tourism example, this means that unless you’re doing the marketing for NY or LA, you should probably use full names and ditch the abbreviations.