JosephLtech, a member of the LockerGnome community, asked on LockerGnome.net: “So I was texting a friend the other day and he was using text language (TBH, LOL, BRB, JK, etc.). I was using, well… English. I prefer to type out words, I guess. But I was wondering, what do you guys do? Text language or (for lack of a better term) English?”
This is a great question, and one that everyone might have a different answer to. I’ve found that there appears to be a generational gap between people who text as though they’re typing in English and those who use abbreviations (also called texting slang) to communicate.
I’m not personally a big fan of these abbreviations because they find their way into everyday communication such as email, YouTube, and blog comments, and everywhere else you wouldn’t expect someone to need to abbreviate to communicate.
Origins of Texting Slang
Texting slang started as a way to quickly relay information that would take too long to type out on a traditional phone. The true origins of many of the terms we see today in text messages are wide and varied, but many of them source from the early days of the Internet when people would use abbreviations to save themselves from having to type complete words or phrases. That’s pretty lazy, right?
Enter the mobile texting craze. Having only ten keys rather than a full QWERTY keyboard, users would have to either wait patiently as a letter cleared before typing another, or opt for shorter messages. In the end, shorter messages won out and the texting slang phenomenon began.
Just like any abbreviation, there are relatively safe and widely understood phrases people use both in text messages and in day-to-day communication on other platforms such as “EOM” to indicate the end of a message. I see this a lot in email where the subject line is the entire message someone wanted to relay to me. It took me a second to understand what that meant the first time I saw it, but I see it often enough that it doesn’t appear to be terribly unprofessional or outlandish.
Ending a message to your friend, relative, or spouse with a smile or hugs and kisses (XOXO) is also pretty widely understood and universally positive. Still, I wouldn’t recommend ending a business message with that. Your boss might think you’re crazy.
Other terms such as: AFK (Away from Keyboard), BRB (Be Right Back), GTG (Got to Go), AFAIK (As Far as I Know), FWIW (For What it’s Worth), and others are generally widely accepted and easily recognized, though again these phrases are intended for casual conversation and not for business practices.
When Not to Use Them
Text slang is fine when you’re chatting it up with your friends and family, but I’m beginning to see it pour into email and other more formal communication channels on a professional capacity. I can’t tell you how many people have written in to LockerGnome with messages riddled in text slang to ask for a chance to be a writer.
If you’re applying for a job, or even relaying information with someone who could potentially have an impact on your career, you should never use texting slang when communicating with them. Even professional abbreviations should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. I’ll even spell out digital rights management before I’ll say DRM. You’d be surprised just how clueless most people are to these terms, and abbreviations lead to confusion very quickly.
You might be thinking using texting slang in YouTube comments, on social networking sites, and on your own personal website is a good idea. Consider this, if I’m researching a job candidate and I see that texting slang is their primary form of written communication online, I’ll probably pass them up without even considering their resume. I’m not alone either. Your public presence on the Web is paramount to a successful career now more than ever. Even protected posts are subject to scrutiny from a potential employer. There are companies that make a good amount of profit doing nothing more than finding ways to get into your Facebook page and find out everything they can about you. It’s legal, too. That hot looking 18-year-old you added as a friend yesterday could be a recruiter for all you know.
Why Parents Need to Know the Lingo
Sexting and intentionally encrypted messages between teens is a common problem addressed in the media. Drugs, sex, and other topics can be discussed in the open while most parents remain completely clueless as to what those seemingly random letters and numbers actually mean.
While I don’t intend this post to result in a privacy dispute, understanding what some of the more common texting terms mean can mean the difference between a teen living or dying. NoSlang.com has a great dictionary of thousands of different texting terms commonly being used by teens today including a top 20 list that breaks down some of the more concerning terms parents need to know.
If you’re a parent, would you understand what this phrase means?
CD9 dfs, lmirl l8r gtg.
Or how about this one?
I’m not saying that texting slang is a bad thing or that it should be kept out of your communication with friends. I send and receive text messages all the time with abbreviations in them, but I also take care not to do so if my message is going to more than one person. Besides, it takes more time to explain a term to someone who doesn’t understand it than it would to type out the phrase in the first place.
Using slang or abbreviations for texting is a way of life, and everyone would be better off taking the time to learn some of the more commonly used phrases. That said, it’s the responsibility of the person sending these messages to consider whether or not you might be better off just taking the second it takes to type out what you’re actually trying to say. This could avoid confusion, and possibly an embarrassing misunderstanding down the line.
Photograph Origins Unknown