Elon Musk arms crossed
Elon Musk has staffed SpaceX, Tesla Motors and Solar City with America's top engineers. Hopefully none of them say "VTS" when "vertical test stand" would work just fine. Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage

Elon Musk hates acronyms. Seriously. The founder of SpaceX once wrote a company-wide email to all employees of his rocket company, warning them that he would take “drastic action” if they continued to make up acronyms for their corporate language.

The email, sent in May 2010 and published in the new book “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance, was meant to increase efficiency at the SpaceX factory. Instead of speeding up the communication process, Musk wrote, acronyms were actually increasing confusion among engineers.

“Individually, a few acronyms here and there may not seem so bad, but if a thousand people are making these up, over time the result will be a huge glossary that we have to issue to new employees,” Musk wrote. “No one can actually remember all these acronyms, and people don't want to seem dumb in a meeting, so they just sit there in ignorance. This is particularly tough on new employees.”

By the time Musk sent this memo he was already known as a visionary entrepreneur, albeit one with intense managerial skills. SpaceX engineers are known to work shifts between 12-16 hours long, six days a week in an attempt to keep with with Musk's impossibly optimistic work deadlines. But those deadlines are out of reach when engineers use “particularly dumb” acronyms like HTS (for horizontal test stand) and VTS (vertical test stand).

“That needs to stop immediately, or I will take drastic action – I have given enough warnings over the years,” the SpaceX CEO went on. “Unless an acronym is approved by me, it should not enter the SpaceX glossary. If there is an existing acronym that cannot be reasonably justified, it should be eliminated, as I have requested in the past.”