Do You Use Texting Slang?

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.

Positive Use

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?

dwn4a ~~#ZZZZZZ

Final Thoughts

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

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • http://twitter.com/davidclare1 David Clare

    I used to use text language in IMs, text messages and social media.  After I found myself typing “formally”, text speak was gradually creeping in undetected to myself.  After I noticed, I decided to type “normally”.  The only two text related abbreviations I use (if at all) “AFK” and “LOL”.

    I am starting to get very picky with people on Facebook who insist on using Text language on their status’, it’s bad enough the fact that you feel it appropriate to tell me “i hd a lvly day wid me bbe” or “dat b*** rlly dus me ed in” (they don’t usually put stars, I thought I’d keep this rant clean) or even my favourite “am bord” WELL I’M BORED OF YOUR UNINTERESTING UPDATES!

  • A. Zhu

    I’ve always types in proper English with the occasional “lol” or replacing the work “you” with u just to get a quick message out, despite being a teenager and all that. I’ve always been a stickler for good spelling and punctuation, which my friends always ignore. Am I alone?

  • Dylan

    Could you post the “translations” for the two phrases you includedin the article?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001183464210 Noah Bauer

    I am a kid and I do not us major slang. I more use u for you and i for I

  • http://MatthewSabia.com/ Matthew Sabia

    I guess I’m an average “text slang” user. The thing that annoys me is when people use it for no apparent reason like they purposely find an excuse to abbreviate something lol.

    Well BRB LCKRG. I GTG TTYL.

  • Emily

    I spell everything out. Maybe I’m too much of an English critic to not abbreviate. lol :)

  • Scottjbelanger

    I’m a 16 year old guy who’s been texting for years. I never use any abbreviations and neither do any of my friends. (even the girls). I think the idea that society has that we all talk in stupid abbreviations is ridiculous. nobody ever talks like that anymore except my parents when they try to act cool and “hip”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002773891527 Caleb Bond

    I’ll have to agree with you. I am a teen and a bit pedantic when it comes to English. I correct and pull people up on their English, no matter who they may be or where we are. I have burst out in class a few time with a correction to something the teacher has said. They don’t like it, but perhaps they should see it as what they do for a living.

    I rarely use ‘texting slang’ and don’t intend to. I have more respect for someone who types something in full that abbreviated. When I looked at the examples Matt showed, I was completely baffled.

  • Kyle Polansky

    I really don’t use many of these abbreviations. Perhaps it’s because I am usually using a full keyboard rather than a 9 key phone keyboard. When typing on those phones, it saves tons of time to shorten the text you type.

    Other than that, there are some forms that have a character limit. Because of this, I will try to shorten words (usually by editing and removing un-needed adjectives first).

    On a regular day, I’ll usually only abbreviate commonly known items (like USA for The United States of America). I also use the terms “LOL” and “BRB” in IRC quite a bit. LOL is pretty much universally understood on the IRC channels I talk in. When typing BRB, it’s usually as I’m getting out of my chair to go do something. Many video games also have abbreviations for items that can be used to save time. However, they stay with the game. When talking about music, I don’t say TDDWDTG like I would when playing Guitar Hero 3, I would say The Devil Went Down to Georgia. 

    I’ll admit I’m not the best at English, but I usually try to do a fair job when talking or typing. I totally agree with the final point in this article. Your communication should be clear to people on both ends. I have talked with some people in Spanish a little bit (that I have learned in school). It was hard to understand, but I got a general idea of the messages. It’s a lot better than no communication at all. 

  • http://twitter.com/KeyahSanchez Lakeyah ✌Tru-Bill✌

     Me too Emily…. and when I try to you use the slang I just can’t. :)

  • http://twitter.com/Neniza Edward Jones

    I think that saying the abbreviations is just stupid (and pointless, considering you sometimes they even have more syllables – WTF has 5 whereas the actual phrase has 3). It’s not going to kill you to keep your mouth open for about another 0.2 seconds.

    Typing them is fine, but I find incorrect grammar annoying. I sometimes use them, even while typing with “full grammar” (as I usually do), but only to shorten it on IM services (for example, me saying “Tbqh they annoyed me in that they’re being such idiots – it just makes me think WTF.”).

  • http://twitter.com/KeyahSanchez Lakeyah ✌Tru-Bill✌

     Great for you because my younger cousins are terrible. Everything is abbreviated and I usually have to ask what the heck does that mean lol.

  • http://twitter.com/KeyahSanchez Lakeyah ✌Tru-Bill✌

    It really irks my soul lol… I don’ t like it. I may use U for you, lmao, lol things like that. However I’ve tried and I just couldn’t do it.

  • aws3100

    As of right now, no more texting slang for me.

    As for the video, “Nice basket, Jonathan.”

  • Bill O’Dwyer

    Good call! Personally, I hate it when people text me in such slang: especially in the days where most people are on contract phones or have unlimited free texts. If we were still paying for each individual 80 character message, then I’d be singing a different tune, but in my humble opinion, it was still ridiculous even then.
    Even when I was 13, and had just discovered MSN messenger (oh how the world has moved on!), I was baffled as to why people would use these abbreviations when the full keyboard was available to them… Was it really saving that much time to type wubu2 instead of What’ve you been up to?

    However, I think one of the problems with text-slang on the internet is that English is the generally accepted language of the internet, and like it or not, most English language sites are the only option for forums or whatever. As such, a lot of the traffic to those sites can be non-native English speakers, who have picked up the slang from other English speakers and are still using it now, possibly even 5 or 10 years later, simply because they think it’s correct English based on what others have written, or at the very least acceptable.

    Finally, can we stop saying “lol” please? It’s really not that accurate. I’ve begun to use lqtm or syas in such occasions as others use lol:
    Laughing Quietly To Myself and Small Yet Amused Smile

  • John

    I do a little of both, but more correct english.