If you send a lot of SMS text messages you’ve probably come up against the serious limitations of a cell phone’s keypad. The difficulty of entering whole words, combined with the strict 160-character limit for most text messages, means that there’s a very strong impulse to abbreviate things in text messages. For instance, “text” becomes “txt,” “for” becomes “4,” “your” becomes “yr,” and so on.
It’s more common for young people to use text shorthand (but then, it’s more common for young people to be communicating via SMS in the first place). But while grownups — especially teachers — often bemoan the terrible effects this practice must be having on the kids’ language skills, it turns out that the abbreviations used by teenagers for SMS texting might not be so bad for their spelling and grammar. According to one study, anyhow, teenagers are actually quite skilled at switching contexts (using “txt spk” on their phones and more formal writing for class essays) and at spotting errors.
Whether you’re a teenager or an adult, however, text shortcuts can be handy for simplifying SMS messaging — and they can be fun, too. Here’s a short list of some common abbreviations used in SMS (and sometimes in computer-based instant messaging too).
2: to, too, or two
4: for, four
bcnu: be seeing you
f2t: free to talk
jic: just in case
jk: just kidding
lol: laughing out loud
ruok: Are you OK?
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and it’s not like it’s as official as Webster’s, either. People pretty much just make this stuff up as they go along. In fact, you can make up your own abbreviations easily by following a few simple tips:
- drop vowels when they’re not necessary (nt 2 hrd 2 gt ths trck)
- utilize numbers or easily-accessible punctuation (c u l8r)
- shorten up sentences and drop anything unnecessary, like “I think” or “please” or “hey, Patrick, listen to this” (will b @ home 30 min)
Have fun with it — and let me know if you’ve got any other great SMS abbreviations or tips for speedier texting!