Q. Dear CMOS, I’ve often encountered “business process outsourcing” abbreviated to BPO whether it’s used as a noun or as an adjective. To my ear, the abbreviation is fine as an adjective but sounds awkward when used and read as a noun, in which case I use the full form. For example, “The company provides IT support and BPO services”—fine. “The company provides services in IT support and business process outsourcing”—fine. “The company provides services in IT support and BPO”—awkward. Is it just me, or does this preference have a sound grammatical basis?
A. It’s just you. Outsourcing is a noun, so there’s nothing wrong with using the initialism as a noun. If your readers are used to the abbreviation, then by spelling it out you are probably just slowing them down.