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All the Text Messaging Abbreviations That Make You Cool, Approachable And Human

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Published: Jul 7, 2020

Texting has become an integral part of our communications. Yet, we tend to type differently for personal and professional conversations. One would use familiar text message abbreviations on a personal level. But we tend to give that up and write formally when it comes to professional texting- sometimes making our messages unnecessarily stiff. 

When I think of personal communications in the old Vs., modern times, an amusing comparison comes to mind. 

Henry VIII, the king of England, wrote lovely letters to Anne Boleyn, pouring his heart and promising they’ll be together soon. “For what joy can be greater upon earth than to have the company of her who is dearest to me, knowing likewise that she does the same on her part, the thought of which gives me the greatest pleasure,” he wrote to her in 1528.

If the lovebirds belonged to today’s generation, Henry would probably get an “ILY2 xoxo” as a reply.

We have come a long way from long nights of dipping a quill in black ink and writing in the light of a candle. Today, the thumb takes minimum effort to convey maximum messages. Restricted to 160 characters or less, the SMS language has transformed English as we knew it (at least in text form). So much so, that it has prompted research and studies!

Acronyms and abbreviations in texting are the new normal.

Whether you’re having a two-way conversation, broadcasting texts to a large audience, or opting people into your SMS list, texting is an efficient tool to grab people’s attention. And one way to optimize it even further is to make the tone casual when it suits your audience.

The use of text message abbreviations and acronyms can help you with that. 

If you want to jump right to the list of commonly used abbreviations, scroll to the abbreviations list for texting.

What is the difference between abbreviations and acronyms

abbreviations for texting sample1
Source: Giphy

The two terms are often used interchangeably. However, they have distinct meanings. 

  • Text abbreviations meaning: An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or a phrase that uses the first letter or first few letters of that word or phrase.

Examples: 

  • OFC- Of course
  • SMH- Shaking My Head
  • BF- Boyfriend
  • GF- Girlfriend
  • An acronym is also a shortened form of words or phrases. But it can be pronounced like another word (like a portmanteau. FYI, a portmanteau is a word formed by clubbing two words together. FYI, FYI is an abbreviation of For Your Information). To further clarify, SCUBA is an acronym (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus), and Medicare is a portmanteau (medical + care). 

Examples of an acronym: 

  • YOLO- You Only Live Once
  • ASAP- As Soon As Possible
  • LOL- Laugh Out Loud

What does the study of this SMS language say?

One would think that text messaging abbreviations and acronyms have butchered the English language. In fact, this casual style of texting was practiced as long as 120 years ago when telegraph users used abbreviations for personal conversations. OMG, right? (Fun fact: British Admiral John Fisher used this abbreviation in 1917 when he was 76 years old!)

Fast forward to the early 2000s when text messaging was becoming a popular communications tool. Telecom companies had set the character limit of each SMS to 160. So people had to invent ways to fit their messages into 160 characters or less to avoid paying more.

This saved money and also helped them “talk” faster. 

We became creative with the text language. Talk to You Later became TTYL, I Don’t Know became IDK, and Happy Birthday became HBD.

Today, even though iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook, and many other social networks give you unlimited characters to send, text jargon refuses to go. 

Text messaging abbreviations became too convenient, evolving into jargon for a new generation hooked to their phones.

As an organization reaching out to people via text, make sure you understand and follow the SMS lingo. This will stop you from seeming stiff, and you appear more approachable instead.

Related Reading: How to send a text blast (with best practices & examples)

Emojis as an addition to the SMS language

text messaging abbreviations emoji
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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Separately, these are just punctuations and symbols. Together, they make a smiling face. Computer scientist Scott Elliot Fahlman proposed the use of this “emoticon” (a portmanteau of ’emotional icon’) in September 1982, and it has taken over the texting language since. The smiley remains a classic in the SMS language, although it has undergone several avatar makeovers.

Today, you have a range of emoticons and emojis to punctuate your message (the former are made from symbols you find on your keyboard. The latter are picture icons available on text apps). They are as integral a part of the texting language as are abbreviations and acronyms. Utilize them to make your texts more fun, conversational, and casual.

  • Open rates for emails increase by 15% if the subject line has an emoji
  • A tweet with an emoji gets 25.4% more engagement
  • Emojis in a Facebook post increase its engagement rate by 33-57%

Related Reading: How to use Mass Texting for Businesses

When to use what text messaging abbreviations

While targeting the younger generation

text messaging abbreviations acronyms
Image Source: Daily Edge

If you think the text language has a universal meaning, take a look at the above picture again. 

An easy way to understand what text message abbreviations, acronyms, or emojis teens or millennials use, think of why they text. These younger generations are more accustomed to using smartphones and various texting apps. So, they easily understand and use texting abbreviations. They have formed their own meanings and, in a few cases, rewritten some short forms.

If a Gen-Z receives an “SOS,” they know it’s not a call for urgent help. It means “Someone Over Shoulder,” and you better be cautious about the next text you send.

To text this tech-savvy generation, you need to understand their SMS abbreviations, what they use and what annoys them.

text abbreviations genz tweets
Source: Twitter

Related Reading: Text Messaging Services For Schools And Universities

While targeting older generations

Now, one shouldn’t generalize. So I wouldn’t go as far as saying all people from older generations refrain from using emojis or abbreviations in texting. But it’s fair to say that many find their interpretation difficult

So if your SMSes are going to the people who were introduced to phones only after their twenties, use minimum abbreviated text words. Using simple emojis or abbreviations is always encouraged. But try not to use terms or icons that need interpretation. 

For instance, the above emoji means support, motivation, achievement, or approval to the younger generation. To the older generation, it may simply mean 100.

How will the use of text abbreviations help me

text messaging abbreviations informal chat
Representative image only.

  • Creates a Casual tone 

The right use of text messaging abbreviations and acronyms can set a casual, approachable tone. It does not sound like a bot is speaking with you or that all the messages are preset. A human touch to a texting campaign makes your supporters feel valued. 

For instance, the first message in the above image may feel a bit stiff. Reframing such a text to set a more casual tone can ensure better engagement. For instance, “Hey Janet, 6th Nov is Election Day & polls open 7 am-8 pm. Jacob is a strong voice to represent Alabama. We are supporting his campaign ✊. Can we count on your vote?”

Once the conversation begins, the text senders can understand how casual, formal, engaged, or indifferent the recipient is. Depending on this, they can make use of appropriate abbreviations in texts. In the above example, Tyler could see that the voter freely uses acronyms, and so, they too used an abbreviation and an emoji to make the text personalized.

Related Reading: Introduction to conversational marketing – driving actions through personal conversations

  • More content in less money

An SMS of over 160 characters will cost you more even if you go one character extra. Abbreviations and acronyms help you compress your text. Of course, some messages may still require some rework if you are spillover. But with abbreviations, long phrases like For The Win (11 characters, including spaces) can be turned into just FTW (3).

53 common acronyms/ abbreviations for texting

Are you wondering, “What are some abbreviations for words?” Here’s an abbreviations list for texting your customers and supporters.

Abbreviations/ AcronymsWhat they meanAbbreviations/ AcronymsWhat they meanAbbreviations/ AcronymsWhat they mean
ACCAnyone Can ComeFYIFor Your InformationOTOHOn The Other Hand
ADMINAdministratorG2GGoing to GoPOVPoint of View
AFAICAs Far As I am ConcernedGMVGot My VoteQOTDQuote Of The Day
AFAPAs Far As PossibleGOATGreatest Of All TimeROFLRolling On the Floor Laughing
AKAAlso Known AsGTGGood To GoRSVPRepondez s’il vous plait (French for ‘Please reply’)
AMAAsk Me AnythingICYMIIn Case You Missed itSMHShakes My Head
ASAPAs Soon As PossibleIDKI Don’t KnowSTDSeal The Deal/ Save The Date
ATMAt The MomentIGInstagramTBATo Be Announced
BRBBe Right BackIKRI Know, Right?TBDTo Be Decided
BTWBy The WayIMHOIn My Humble OpinionTBHTo Be Honest
BYOBBring Your Own BeverageLMKLet Me KnowTCTake Care
DIYDo It YourselfN/ANot Available or Not ApplicableTGIFThank God It’s Friday
DMDirect MessageNBDNo Big DealTIAThanks In Advance
EODEnd of DayNGLNot Gonna LieTMIToo Much Information
FAQFrequently Asked QuestionsNPNo ProblemTTYLTalk To You Later
FBFacebookNRNNo Reply NecessaryYOLOYou Only Live Once
FOMOFear of Missing OutNVMNever MindTBDTo Be Decided
FTWFor The WinOFCOf Course

What to keep in mind while using text messaging abbreviations for business:

1. Don’t go overboard- use only for words/ phrases that are too long 

Text Messaging Abbreviations sample

Does the message on the left sound like gibberish? Because even as a millennial, this looks over the top to me. Such messages with too many text message abbreviations and acronyms may put off your reader. When composing a text for your supporters, remember that you don’t know them and their texting styles too well. So keep the short forms to a minimum. Because abbreviations may need interpretation, but full words always convey what they are meant to.

2. Use fairly common text abbreviations

Your messages are personalized, no doubt. But they must also be clear and concise. Your readers must not have to deduce its meaning. Naturally, It’s a good idea to use common text message abbreviations that are widely known. Which brings us to the next point

3. Always be mature 

text messaging abbreviations overuse sample

You want your recipients to take you seriously and unnecessarily using short forms will take that credit away from you. As a thumb rule, use common texting abbreviations or acronyms only when they compress a seriously long-phrase (ASAP, TTYL, EOD). Don’t use them when they save just one or two letters. For instance, don’t use 2 for to, u for you or tym for time. 

Let’s be honest. ‘2gether V can’ hardly sounds convincing. But “Together, we can!” is sharp, mature, and encouraging!

4. Don’t make up abbreviations…

… Even if you think the abbreviations can be easily understood. Your message should be the hero, rather than the format of the text. Never forget that abbreviations and acronyms are there to make your text message crisp and informal. It must not make the reader’s work difficult.

Now you know how to compose texts that show how approachable you are and how human your campaign is. Get on your texting tool ASAP and write a text that is cool, crisp, and confident. Abbreviated text words can be your friend if you use them wisely.

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