So, you’ve gone to all of your English classes and you’re getting a good grasp of spelling, grammar and sentence structure. Everything’s falling in to place and you feel like you’re on the verge of mastering the English language. But then you pick up your cell phone and begin to text, message, or chat online with other people and all of a sudden everything you’ve learnt goes out the window in a whirlwind of chat abbreviations, acronyms, and emojis.
What are chat abbreviations and acronyms?
An abbreviation is a way to shorten words or phrases so they are easier to use. One of the most common abbreviations you’ll come across in everyday speak is TV (which for those who don’t know actually stands for television).
An acronym is the process of taking the first letter from each word in a sentence or phrase and then putting them together to make a new, shorter word with the same meaning. A common acronym you may have come across is TGIF, which stands for thank god it’s Friday.
Why do people use acronyms and abbreviations in online chat and messages?
In the realm of online chat and messaging, acronyms and abbreviations are used as a way to shorten messages and speed up conversations. By reducing the number of characters required, you make it easier to get your point across while making the process a whole lot quicker.
The use of abbreviations and acronyms in online chat developed in the early days of mobile phones when text messages were consigned to a rigid 160-character limit. While this limit still exists for standard texting, most modern smart phones bypass it by automatically taking apart and stitching together messages behind the scenes, or by using Internet protocols for transmission to avoid character limits altogether. Some websites, however, like the social media platform Twitter still enforce a rigid character limit making it essential to be succinct in what we say.
While the limit on the number of words we write is no longer a problem (unless you use Twitter a lot), the need to send messages quickly still prevails and the use of abbreviations and acronyms are common in all forms of online chat.
Why you should learn to use text message abbreviations?
Even as a native speaker it is incredibly difficult to understand text message abbreviations and acronyms as the winds of change blow through the online realm more often than tropical storms in the Caribbean. Just as you feel comfortable with one set of shortened words another one is just around the corner to confuse you again. I have to admit that I’ve often found myself baffled by the messages I’ve receive and had to resort to a quick Google search to fully understand them.
Misunderstanding or using an abbreviation or acronym incorrectly can lead to embarrassment and may even upset or anger unintentionally. A misplaced IDC instead of an IDK has led to many an online flame war with battle lines drawn and friendships tested and discarded. But the stakes are higher than you think and social media savvy youngsters are now employing the use of abbreviations and acronyms outside the online realm within their everyday communication.
Ok, what acronyms and abbreviations should I be aware of?
There are hundreds of abbreviations and acronyms commonly in use at any given time and keeping abreast of current trends can be difficult. There are, however, a few that have stood the test of time and have remained consistent in their usage. Let’s have a look at a few in a little more detail:
LOL (Laughing Out Loud)
LOL is an acronym that has been in use for many years and its meaning has remained unchanged. It is also one that has stepped out of the online chat rooms to be used in conversation. Representing laughing out loud, LOL is a great way show that you find something funny, even if the humour is sarcastic or mean spirited.
ASAP (As Soon As Possible)
ASAP has been an acronym in common usage for decades and actually pre-dates the advent of online chat room and social media by many years. Used as a way to express the urgency of a situation, ASAP tells the recipient that you need whatever it is you have requested quickly.
C U L8R (See You Later)
C U L8R is a more complicated acronym/abbreviation hybrid that cuts down a 13-character (if you count spaces) phrase into a palatable 7 characters. Even those who struggle to read online chat can understand the meaning of C U L8R and it is a great way to say goodbye for now.
ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival)
ETA is another decades old acronym that’s been in use since the Second World War. Used as a way to tell someone (or request from them) when something is estimated to happen, ETA can be commonly found in both online and ‘in-person’ speak.
BFF (Best Friend Forever)
BFF is a newer acronym that became common in the mid-2000s (although it first entered the Oxford Dictionary in 1987). Used as a way to express your love and appreciation for a friend, BFF was popularised in reality TV shows before entering online chat and everyday speech.
XOXO (Hugs and Kisses)
XOXO is the first (and only) word on our list that is neither an abbreviation nor an acronym and is used more for the shape and meaning of the letters than the way they are pronounced. With the Xs representing kisses (something that has been used in all forms of writing for over a hundred years) and the Os to represent the hugs, XOXO is a great way to show your affection for someone.
IDK (I Don’t Know)
Not to be confused with IDC (I don’t care), IDK is an easy three letter acronym to express confusion or a lack of knowledge.
We all use acronyms and abbreviations every day in the modern online world but with trends changing quicker than the outfits on Taylor Swift’s back during a concert, it can be easy to fall behind the times. I hope, with the help of our little guide, you now feel ready and able to handle anything online chat can throw at you.