Common Cell Phone Text Abbreviations

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A woman is taking a break at work and texting.
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Chat abbreviations have evolved to the point where a cell phone text message can look like gibberish if you haven't kept up with the lingo. While these abbreviations are mostly the result of reducing or substituting the characters of words to fit everything into one message, sometimes concealing the content from onlookers is also a primary motivation. Using abbreviations instead of typing out full words or sentences also speeds up the texting process. Certain abbreviations are meant to convey emotions, which can be hard to discern from text alone. Familiarize yourself with the most common abbreviations before you encounter them in a message.


Communication Speed

Sometimes time is of the essence when you type a message, especially if something urgent occurs in real life. In these instances, the abbreviations "BRB," which means "be right back"; "BBL," which means "Be back later"; or "BBS," which means "Be back soon," come in handy. You may also encounter "TTFN," which means "Ta-ta for now" or "TTYL," which means "Talk to you later," if the person you are chatting with has to end the conversation abruptly.


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Message Length

Individual SMS text messages are limited to 160 characters, so some commonly used words and phrases are abbreviated to fit more content into a single message. Using "FWIW" instead of "for what it's worth" or "IMHO" instead of "in my honest/humble opinion" can save a lot of space in a message. Numbers are often used instead of letter combinations to shorten the word such as "CU L8R" instead of "see you later" and "B4" instead of "Before."


Content Concealment

Abbreviations are sometimes used to conceal the content of the message or to warn the recipient that a parent or stranger is watching. For example, your teenager might use the abbreviation "PAW," which means Parents are watching," or "CD9" meaning "Code 9 parents are around" if she notices you glancing at her phone. These codes warn the person that she is chatting with not to send any incriminating messages. Other variations include "POTS" meaning "parents over the shoulder," "P911" meaning "parent emergency" and "AITR" meaning "adult in the room."


Convey Emotions

Because it is difficult to convey emotions such as anger, sarcasm or sadness purely with text, certain abbreviations are commonly used to represent these emotions. To signify that a message was a joke, "JK" meaning "just kidding" is commonly used while "QQ" or "T_T" is used to signify tears. If a message is particularly humorous, the abbreviation "LOL," which means "laughing out loud," can be used. Messages often end with an "OXXO" to signify "hugs and kisses."