Now that texting has been available for over 25 years, text messaging has grown into a language of its own. Some would argue that text message languages and their abbreviations are just as critical to forming new languages as spoken ones.

Abbreviations are one way that text messages have redesigned our languages. But it’s not only the proper grammar of essays and journalism that have changed. Text messaging abbreviations help give users a sense of community and relevance in our fast-paced world. 

When we use them, we signal to others that we are part of a global group of texters who are fluent in modern technology. Abbreviations save time too, which is a must in today’s world.

This article will talk about the most common text message abbreviations and their history. We’ll also discuss who uses them and why. 

There’s no sign that text message abbreviations are going away any time soon. Many of the world’s most populous countries have their own SMS languages. Let’s dive in so we can learn about all the texting fun!

What Are Abbreviations in SMS?

SMS Abbreviations

People didn’t start making abbreviations in SMS out of thin air. In fact, humans have been shortening (‘abbreviation’ simply means cutting a word short) their languages for thousands of years. 

Slang, which is a form of language that often shortens words (think of “ain’t” or “y’all”), has a lot in common with abbreviations in SMS. LOL, one of the most common SMS abbreviations is nothing more than super-efficient slang for the longer phrase “laughing out loud.”

Abbreviations exist in SMS for several reasons. The most obvious is brevity. SMS (or text messages) is a manual language, meaning users express themselves with their hands on a mobile device. Our hands don’t communicate as fast as our mouths, so the need for a faster SMS language was imperative early on.

Another explanation for abbreviations in SMS lies in the social side of languages. As much as our elementary school teachers may tell us that language is a chalkboard formula, our languages are social. We speak or text to communicate with others. 

So, like all social events, SMS abbreviations became infectious. If you used them, it showed that you were part of the in-group. People naturally began to use SMS slang to join those ingroups.

History of SMS Abbreviations 

SMS Abbreviations History

SMS or texting language has been central to mobile and internet-based communication since at least 1992. A test engineer named Neil Papwort, working for the now-defunct Sema Group, succeeded in sending the text message “Merry Christmas” to a colleague. From that moment, texting language would evolve at a breakneck speed.

By 2010, SMS was the global #1 mobile application, with over 3.5 billion users. Texting has only gotten more and more popular. Now, international market research estimates that the total value of SMS messaging services on the planet is close to $100 billion. That’s a massive spike in value, but not unexpected.

The first concept for SMS messaging came from a French/German team of engineers in 1984. Their company, GSM, had the idea of sending text messages along signaling paths on telephone lines during low-traffic periods. This way, they kept costs low.

The earliest SMS messages had to remain below 128 bytes to ensure they fit within the preexisting signaling paths. This early limit on text messaging was the first step toward the birth of the SMS abbreviations we use today. 

SMS history accelerated after 1992. Telecom companies like Nokia opened up networks solely for person-to-person texting. Multi-tap texting in which users press numeral buttons until the correct letter cycled through was still the norm. By 1997, the first QWERTY keyboard appeared on a cell phone. It was a pivotal development in SMS abbreviations.

By 2007 and the introduction of the iPhone, SMS language was vast enough to fill texting dictionaries, forums for texting slang, and spawn its own grammar and style! 

The history of texting abbreviations is not over. It’s sometimes surprising to remember that text messages are less than 30 years old, yet they dominate our digital lives. Still, the future is even more exciting to contemplate. What will networks after 5G enable us to say and do in the world of SMS? An open question, for now.

Why Use Abbreviations in SMS? 

Why Use SMS Abbreviations

In SMS history, we see that texting has always been defined by limits. In the nineties, it was narrow signaling paths that limited text sizes to 128 bytes. In the early aughts, cell phones themselves didn’t have the buttons or keyboards for texting long, grammatically correct English (or any language). Mobile device users had to improvise from the beginning.

SMS text messages used to be much more expensive too, mind you. Before most mobile users could access unlimited talk and text plans, only a select few could afford to send out long texts to friends and family. Lots of plans demanded that users text within a character limit. 

One can predict how all these early forces combined to create the SMS abbreviations and slang we have today. 

Consider how long it used to take to send a text message with a standard telephone keypad. It took minutes to create a message of just a dozen characters. People were patient with early texting models in the nineties, but there was always pressure to speed up the texting process and make it simpler. 

We use abbreviations for many reasons. The first is to speed up the writing (or texting) process. Texting will never be as fast as speaking, but it has grown to be our second-fastest form of communication. 

People also use texting abbreviations to signal that they are part of an ingroup. Abbreviations not only shorten words and phrases, they carry cultural significance as well. If someone texts you “Nice 2 see U” versus “Nice to see you,” you can tell the differences. The former text signals that the texter is fluent in SMS language while the latter is not (or prefers not to use it).

Texting abbreviations, in short, are much richer and culturally vital than they might seem. Every “BTW” or “IDK” we quickly type out contains a history. It’s a history of texters experimenting with abbreviations, evolving to new tech, and creating a unique internet culture along the way. 

Are SMS Abbreviations Global? 

The short answer is, absolutely! Just as there are national languages (English, Spanish), there are global languages too. Phrases like “OK” are one such example of a global language.

Are sms abbreviations global

People once tried to create a globally spoken language called Esperanto out of the hopes that it would bring world peace and a shared sense of global citizenship. The plan failed (in part). Esperanto never gained much ground as a global language. SMS abbreviations did.

How did SMS abbreviations go global? The most crucial factor was cell phone companies opening up communication (initially just calls) across the globe. Fees often apply, but a global and multicultural texting language quickly exploded in the mid-aughts. 

The more recent factor contributing to global SMS is the massive success of social media. Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Weibo, and WeChat are the lifelines of communication linking people in Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceanian nations and islands, and people in the far reaches of the wild. These text-based apps allow people to mix languages and create wonderful slang and abbreviations that make a rich global network.

What Are the Common Abbreviations in Messaging? 

We mentioned that there are local SMS abbreviations, global SMS abbreviations, and blends of both. The most common abbreviations in messaging include examples from all three groups. In the list below, you’ll notice the diverse range of abbreviations. Some incorporate numbers, others letters, and still more have a mix. 

FWIWFor whatever it’s worth
ISOIn search of
NPNo problem
B4NBye for now
F2FFace to face
FTFYFixed that for you
RBTLRead between the lines
TYVMThank you very much
WYWHWish you were here
WTFWhat the f***
TTYLTalk to you later
LMAOLaughing my a** off
POVPoint of view
OMGOh my God
BFFBest friends forever
JKJust kidding
IMHOIn my honest opinion
IRLIn real life

DIYDo it yourself
G2GGot to go
HBU?How about you?
EODEnd of day
FOMOFear of missing out
IDCI don’t care
IIRCIf I recall correctly
IKRI know, right?
NGLNot gonna lie
OFCOf course
OMWOn my way
OOOOut of office
NBDNo big deal
MFWMy face when
LOLLaughing out loud
MRWMy reaction when
QAPQuick as possible
RNRight now

PNLPeach and love
ROFLRolling on the floor laughing
SMHShaking my head
SOSignificant other
TBATo be announced
TBHTo be honest
TILToday I learned
TL; DRToo long; didn’t read
TMIToo much information

Some abbreviations that started in the obscure early history of SMS messaging have entered everyday speech. LOL and DIY are just two examples of words that people from all walks of life use without thinking of those abbreviations as “text-slang.” Other popular abbreviations in messaging are:

CTACall to action
SMSText, or short message service
ASAPAs soon as possible
FAQFrequently asked question
N/ANot applicable
TIAThanks in advance
QOTDQuote of the day
LMKLet me know
STFUShut the f*** up
AFKAway from keyboard
FTWFor the win
ATMAt the moment
AFAIKAs far as I know
Amirite Am I right?
hhHa Ha!
HANDHave a nice day
IFYPI feel your pain
IH8UI hate you
HAKHugs and kisses
IHNII have no idea
ILU/ILYI love you
IMOIn my opinion
KISSKeep it simple, stupid
OPOriginal poster
JSYKJust so you know
SMSo much
TIMETears in my eyes
SALSuch a laugh
YOLOYou only live once
WYDWhat are you doing?
WYAWhere are you at?
WFMWorks for me
TOUThinking of you
TMSThat makes sense
YWYou’re welcome
WTHWhat the hell
CUSee you
OTWOn the way
TeaGossip, drama
TIAThanks in advance
TTP To the point

What Are the Funny Abbreviations in Messaging? 

SMS abbreviations have led to a huge transformation in comedy in the last decade. It’s all thanks to the flexibility and adaptable way that texting allows us to express ourselves in new and hilarious ways.

ZZZBored, sleeping
BSAAWBig smile and a wink
BWLBursting with laughter
CSLCan’t stop laughing
OMDBOver my dead body
FTLFor the loss
YNKYou never know
YGTRYou got that right
GMTAGreat minds think alike
CWOTComplete waste of time
AAMOFAs a matter of fact
J4FJust for fun
SOMLStory of my life
WU?What’s up?
FAWCFor anyone who cares
NSFWNot safe for work
NAGINot a good idea
AYORAt your own risk
TWBTweet me back
DAEDoes anyone else?
PRTPlease retweet
GLGood luck
NFSNot for sale
DBMIBDon’t bother me, I’m busy
GFNGone for now
RUOK?Are you ok?
CYTSee you tomorrow
ELI5Explain like I’m five
EOSEnd of show
FBMFine by me
FMLF*** my life
JWJust wondering
KKOk, Ok!
NMJCNot much, just chilling
QQueue, list
SOLSooner or later
SMSocial media
SSSo sorry
W/BWelcome back
MYOBMind your own business
IDGAFI don’t give a f***
IG2RI got to run
IHNII have no idea
FWPFirst world problems
E2EGEar to ear grin

Examples of Text Message Abbreviations

Below, we’ve included a few examples of how to insert text message abbreviations into your text messages naturally.

  1. FWIW. “For what it’s worth.”
    1. E.g., “FWIW, I still think u did great at school today.”
  2. PPL. “People.”E.g., “We had to get away from those ppl.”
  3. NBD. “No big deal.”
    1. “It’s NBD. You can buy dinner next time.”
  4. GL. “Good luck.”
    1. “The spelling bee is tomorrow? GL.”
  5. IH8. “I hate.”
    1. “Uh! They left me at the bus stop in the rain. IH8 those guys.”
  6. OTL. “Over the line.”
    1. “Dennis is OTL with his dress at work.”
  7. TBH. “To be honest.”   
    1. “TBH, I’m too tired to go out. Thx.”
  8. SO. “Significant other.”
    1. “Me and my SO went to Jamaica. 10/10!”
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