Beginners Guide: IM & SMS Language

“Oh mum it was so LOL!”

Part of  living in the digital world, that many teens inhabit, is learning the lingua franca, or native language.  Many of you may already be doing so and doing so very well – particularly if you regularly communicate via SMS or Twitter.  However for some of you the native language of text messages and chat rooms may still be a mystery.

I am sure there are others who know about this language but refuse to engage with it because of your concerns about literacy standards and the dumbing down  of culture.  The point of this post is not to explore those issues, although we will at a later date, this post is just a beginners guide for adults who have teenagers communicating with them in a language they cannot comprehend.

Some Basic Definitions

For those who where confused by the title of this post IM refers to Instant Messaging and SMS stands for Short Messaging Standard.  Both acronyms have become synonymous with text messages sent via mobile phones and internet chat sites. However the use of acronyms and abbreviations is very common in many online forums including chat rooms, social networking sites (Facebook or Myspace) and micro-blogging services (Twitter).  It has developed in these mediums as a form of shorthand  that enables communication to happen more rapidly and with the use of less characters – important for character restricted environments such as texting on mobile phones and Twitter. Such is the widespread usage of this form of communication some of these acronyms are now being used in everyday speech.

Keys to the Code

There are some basic principles to decyphering the IM code.  Common words are replaced with single letters or numbers:

  • be becomes b
  • see becomes c
  • are becomes r
  • you becomes u
  • why becomes y
  • to becomes 2

The other basic key is that  each letter stands for the first letter of a word in a common phrase i.e. LOL means Laugh Out Loud.

Basic Vocab

To get you started below I have listed some of the more common IM terms with their normal everyday English  alongside.  This is by no means an exhaustive list and different groups of teenagers may have their own code.  But for those starting out here is basic list to get you started.

2 To, Too, Two (also: 2day, 2moro, 2nite)
U You
@ At
4CO For Crying Out Loud
ATM At The Momement
AFAIK As far As I Know
B4 Before
BBIAB Be Back In A Bit
BBL Be Back Later
BTW By The Way
BRB Be Right Back
CUZ or CUS Because
CYA See ya (can also means “Cover You’re A..”)
DUNNO or IDK I don’t know
EVRE1 or EVERY1 Everyone
F2F Face to Face
G2G Got to Go
GAL Get A Life
GMTA Great Minds Think Alike
GR8 Great
J/J Just Joking
J/K Just Kidding
LOL Laugh out loud
LTNS Long Time No See
LTR or L8R Later
M8 Mate
MSG Message
MTE My Thoughts Exactly
OMG Oh My God
PIX OR PICS Pictures
PLOS Parents Looking Over Shoulder
PLS Please
PPL People
PROLY Probably
PRW Parents Are Watching
RGDS Regards
ROFL Rolling On The Floor Laughing
ROFLOL Rolling On The Floor Laughing Out Loud
ROTFLMAO Rolling On The Floor Laughing My A.. Off
TTFN Ta Ta for Now
TTYL Talk to you later
TX OR THX Thanks
U R You Are
YO Hey!
XOXO Hugs and Kisses

There is one more that is a personal favourite which I rarely get to use:

AFZ- Acronym Free Zone


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  • Tnya

    Is it customary to separate sentences with a comma-no spaces?

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