Six internet acronyms your learners really ought to know


Here’s another language list I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. As I am spending more and more time online and doing things like twittering and online chatting or moderating of courses, I find I am forced to use more and more abbreviations and acronyms in my writing. I also come across them a lot more, even when communicating with people whose first language isn’t necessarily English. Could online communication be one future component of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF)? Should we start talking about ILF (internet lingua franca)? Whatever the take on those bigger questions, to start with here are six acronyms that I believe are pretty important for learners to know as they navigate the www.

1. lol and variations. This is one of the most common acronyms in online communication. People on the net laugh a lot, it seems. They don’t simply laugh either (l). They’re laughing out loud (lol), or they’re rolling on the floor laughing (rotfl), or they’re laughing their arses/asses off (lmao). I’ve even seen rotflmao, for really funny things.

2. IMO and variations. With the rise of blogging and microblogging everybody has an opinion and wants to share it. However, to make it clear that it is just an opinion we might add in my opinion (IMO) afterwards. If what we are saying is potentially face-threatening we could make it a humble opinion (IMHO). For example, “Lindsay, your book looks really boring IMHO”. Or if we really feel like stirring things up or adding humour we can say in my arrogant opinion (IMAO). Dunno why, but I almost always see this in uppercase letters.

3. brb. Don’t you hate it when you’re in the middle of a really good chat or tweet conversation and the outside world rudely butts in (e.g. having to go off to class, or go to the bathroom). This is when you need to tell people you’ll be right back (brb). Useful to buy time too.

4. ttyl, cu. Two common sign off acronyms are talk to you later (ttyl) or see you (cu). Really clever internet folk do things like cul8r but I always think this is a bit like showing off.

5. btw. Good for adding something extra to a conversation or tweet, by the way (btw) is another one I see an awful lot.

6. omg and other expressions of alarm. The internet can be a shocking place, we may see or read shocking things. This is when it’s a good time to say oh my god (omg). You may want to shout it (OMG!) or really yell it (OMG!!!!!!) but someone told me if you do this too much people will think you are a fifteen year old Lady Gaga fan or something like that. Occasionally you will see something that confounds, annoys or enrages you. And an omg just doesn’t cut it for those situations. No, here you need a what the f*#k (wtf). This is also often shouted (WTF!)

I know, I know, there are hundreds of others that I have probably shamefully overlooked. But I had to stick to six. So, if there is a glaring omission from my list, why not add a comment? What acronyms do you think your learners should know for online communication?

Published in: on October 18, 2009 at 6:50 pm  Comments (12)  
Tags: , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi, Lindsay!
    Nice list, useful too.
    Here are three more:
    – asl – age, sex, location – teenagers (and not only) use it when they talk to someone new and they want to make sure about these details – well, as sure as you can be when chatting with someone you don’t see;
    – cu l8r – see you later;
    – np – no problem.


    • You’re right! I see np everywhere, and how could I have forgotten asl?

  2. I’m a big fan of WTF. What about that whole pwned thing, too?

    • Hi Darren,

      Yes, wtf is almost better than saying the whole thing I think! I did not know about pwn, although I had heard the “I own you” thing in games. I thought pwn was like pawn (but I’m an avid online chess player so perhaps that’s why). Interesting.

  3. Great topic, Lindsay – my favourite is afk (away from keyboard), which is often used with brb – you also see it over slumped avatar heads in Second Life when someone hasn’t done anything for 20 minutes or so (a bit disconcerting/off-putting if you’re speking to students or at an online conference in SL to see this, actually – the SL equivalent of students nodding off in your class!)

    • Gosh. I’m not in Second Life hardly at all, but I would have thought you could purchase or get some little app that makes your avatar look lively and springy in online lectures. Maybe an idea…
      Thanks for dropping by Graham!

      • Oh, you can – it’s a must-have for anyone who’s going to be attending events (called an ‘anti-idle’), but many people still don’t know about it

        Great variety of posts, btw – something for everyone here, and some great debates too – what more could we ask for? Keep up the great work!

  4. my sons’ new ones (!!):
    cba – cant be arsed
    tbh – to be honest
    tbf – to be fair
    lmfao – laughing my fu**ing ass off

  5. Gr8 blog, Lindsay! Already linked to my post on the issue (
    BTW, I also linked your post “Six things to know about Global” (
    I assume I have your consent, TX.

    • But of course! Thanks for the message and the links! Will check those out now…

    • Hi Damian,
      I clicked the links, they both display a “404 Error”, neither of them works. Could you do sth about it? Thx.

  6. Yes, it was a matter of brackets (the links included them as part of the addresses).
    Now, I hope they’ll work:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: