Text Message Abbreviations Field Guide (IM Speak for Adults)

Do the text message abbreviations your children and grandchildren send leave you confused as a cow on astroturf? No more! While we shouldn't use this in academic writing, learn to speak the IM (instant messaging) language to communicate with your kids.

Common Text Message Abbreviations

  • LOL – Laughing out loud (Recently a woman texted her daughter – “want you to know, Grandma just died. LOL.” Her daughter was taken aback and found out that her Mom thought LOL meant ‘Lots of Love” – it doesn't usually mean that.)
  • WYD – What are you doing?
  • ROFL – Roll on the floor laughing
  • IDK – I don’t know
  • BTW – By the way
  • ILY – I love you – 143 means the same thing (popularized by Mr. Rogers)
  • J/K – Just kidding
  • NP –  No problem
  • TTYL – Talk to you later
  • SMH – Shaking my head
  • BRB – Be right back

Read Numbers and Letters As Words

When kids use numbers, sound out the word. So 2moro means “tomorrow.” L8r turns into “Later” and Gr8 is “great.” B4N is Bye for now. Say the letter “c” as “see” (CUL8R.) “N” is “in.”

An Important Abbreviation for Responsible Adults: NSFW

Not Safe for Work (NSFW) classifies websites you should avoid at work or school because they contain unsuitable pics and words. Know this term and beware. If a tweet or Facebook post says NSFW don't click on it at school. If you post adult content, mark it with NSFW or people will unfollow and unfriend you for not warning them.

If you see NSFW beside something - NEVER CLICK IT AT SCHOOL OR WORK.

If you see NSFW beside something — you'll have adult content when you click. This is Not Safe for Work and definitely not something you should ever click on at school.

Texting Abbreviations for the Older Generation

You know our kids have to laugh at us sometimes!

You know our kids have to laugh at us sometimes! It can take a while to get used to this texting thing.

While some moan at having to learn “another language” I am taken back to the old movie airplane where Barbara Billingsly “speaks jive.” (See video below for a little throwback moment.) Really, all the kids probably us as intruders in their own language too. But he, we can develop our own IM language.

  • You might sometimes feel like typing OMG to mean “Oh My Grandchildren” (or the much worse choice “Oh My Groin.”)
  • BG – Bringing Grandma/Grandpa or
  • My favorite – GGG – Go Get Grandma.

When NOT to Use IM Speak

I’m told that saying IM speak out loud is a “no no.” (Very uncool – you’ll make your kids LOL or maybe even ROFL.) It is always in bad taste to use these in formal written language, letters and essays. (And we do have our kids to be “the cool police” don't we when we mess up. Does the pic below look familiar?)

Aren't you glad we have all of our kids to be "the cool police?"

Aren't you glad we have all of our kids to be “the cool police?”

Here’s your challenge. Practice. Get out your phone. Send a text message to a kid or grandkid and use as many abbreviations as you can.  Let’s shake up these kids and show them that we can speak their language and create our own.

Leave your favorite funny ones in the comments!

[callout]Note: This is part of a series of columns I’ve written for some local newspapers and has been enhanced for the web by adding hyperlinks and resources. To read more of my past newspaper columns go to my “Tech Tips Newspaper Column” to read past columns or to contact me about having these columns in your local paper.[/callout]

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Carissa Watford September 8, 2014 - 9:40 am

Mrs. Davis I get so confused when my mom starts writing with all of these abbreviations because some words have almost two or more meanings. I think that we should not always try to write in abbreviations. I would mess up when I was in high school because I used abbreviations in text message so much. I think that students should not be allowed to use abbreviations in classwork.

Vicki Davis September 12, 2014 - 6:52 pm

Exactly- we don’t use abbreviations in our class work either! It can be confusing! Good luck chatting with your Mom! ;-)

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere