About Some Important Aspects of Using Abbreviations and SMS Language in the Modern English

The abbreviation and SMS language have become a part of the multilingual world in the recent past. SMS language aims at creating communication by means of simple structures. Moreover, it is similar to a rebus: the whole word is created via using single letters, numbers or pictures. For example: the letter u replaces you, "i <3 u" creates a pictogram for expressing love. For terms and words that do not have common abbreviations, users usually eliminate the vowels from the statement and the person who reads it, "builds" the word by adding missing vowels (e.g. keyboard becomes kybrd and dictionary becomes dctnry). The reader always has to interpret the extended and short forms of terminology according to the situation and context in which they are used, because there are a lot of examples of phrases or words that use similar abbreviations. For example: lol could mean lots of love or laugh out loud and cryn could mean cryin (g) or crayon. If somebody writes ttyl, lol, he/she means talk to you later lots of love instead of talk to you later laugh out loud. Moreover, omg, lol imply: oh my god, laugh out loud instead of oh my god, lots of love. Onw usually means oh no way!

According to Doring: "the use of SMS language in English often involves the single letters replacing words" [Doring, 2002: 34]. For example: Oh becomes o, sea or see is replaced by s, be is substituted by b, r replaces are, why becomes y, you is replaced by u and okay becomes either kk or k. In certain cases, single digits can replace words. For example: Won (or one) becomes numeral 1, too (or to) becomes 2, while ate is replaced by the numeral 8. In some cases, a digit is replaced by a phoneme or a syllable. For example: tomorrow becomes 2moro or 2mro, today is replaced by 2day, Fore (or for) becomes numeral 4. Therefore: before is substituted by b4 and forget is replaced by 4get; ate becomes 8; great is replaced by gr8, mate becomes m8, late is abbreviated as l8, wait is shortened as w8, hate becomes h8, date is abbreviated as d8, later becomes either l8r or l8a, crate is shortened as cr8, skate is substituted by the abbreviations sk8, skater becomes sk8r, and is symbolized by &, thank you becomes 10q or thnq. Moreover, you're is written as ur, someone becomes sum1, wonderful is replaced by 1derfl, no one becomes no1...

The context is very important for understanding SMS language. It is difficult to understand the text without considering the context (hence, like other languages, the English language has numerous words that have dissimilar implications in different contexts). Kormos suggests, that: "text doesn't always follow or obey usual grammar and in addition the words used aren't documented  in standard  English dictionaries or known by English  language academies" [Kormos, 2006: 16].

Abbreviations have longer history than SMS language. Their usage began to proliferate in the 19th century. They are employed to reduce the time required for writing or speaking, especially, when referring to the myriad new organizations, bureaucratic entities and technological products typical of industrial societies. An abbreviation can now easily become a word, either as initials in which the letters are pronounced individually (e.g., TV or FBI) or as an acronym in which the letters are combined into syllables (e.g., scuba, laser, or NAFTA). Some categories of abbreviations do not change in different languages. For example: FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions - is used in the English, French and German languages); M'me (Madam - is used by Frenchmen, Englishmen and Americans).

Some English authors believe, that abbreviations and short text messages pose a threat to the "purity" of the English language. In certain cases, communication is complicated by the fact, that some abbreviations can be understood differently by a reader. For example, lol has three distinct meanings: lots of love, laughing out loud and little old lady. Therefore, the meaning of lol can be concretized according to the context in which it is used. The opponents of abbreviations and short text messages claim, that SMS pollutes the language and causes students' growing laziness. Moreover, its frequent usage results in growing unawareness of proper punctuation, grammar and spelling. It's believed, that the English language is posing a threat. The on-going changes of the language caused by the usage of short messages are diverse and depend on the situation and age groups.

The increased number of "customers" of social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Linkdin) has facilitated the popularization of SMS language. Scientists even call the words used in the Internet "the Internet Slang". For example: AFAIK- as far as I know, BON - Believe or not, FOC - free of charge.

SMS language doesn't obey the grammar rules and standards. There are no rules regulating the creation of SMS abbreviations. They are not presented in dictionaries. Moreover, they are not recognized by linguists.

According to the requirements of the GCSE exam, the students must not use SMS language during the exam. Hence, some educational institutions do not have such prohibitions. A famous British scientist Baron presents the following text (written by 13-years old girl who studies in one of the English public schools) as an example of using SMS language by a pupil: "My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc". The corresponding ordinary letter will be written in the following way: "My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York. It's a great place"[Baron, 2001: 67].  

One of the students wrote Shakespeare's text by means of SMS language:

  •  2b or not 2b thats ?
  • a @(---`---`--- by any otha name wd sml swEt 
  • rm rm w4Ru rm? 
  • 1nc mr un2 T brech dr frnds 1nc mr"[ Baron, 2001: 106].

The text by Conrad "The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest" was shortened in the following way: "T Neli, a crzng yal, swng 2 hr anchr wout a fluta of T sails and was @rest" [Baron, 2001:107].

The text of the American writer John Steinbeck is wholly based on abbreviations. Its characters use "shortened style" in writing and speech. The author says: "My writing style mirrors my characters" [Steinbeck, 2000:4].

The pronunciation and intonation play a great role in the process of using the SMS language. The established term "textism" denotes a "contracted language" with the added emotional sign. In this case no one obeys the rule for only one reason - there are no rules. The person simply adds his/her emotion to the text and expresses his/her ideas in such a way.

According to the contemporary tendency, SMS language is not used only by the young people. It has become popular in all age groups. 

The abbreviations are used by many companies and organizations for the purpose of conveying the appropriate information to the auditory in a short period of time. On the one hand, this way reduces the expanses to the minimum, while on the other, it provides reliability. Therefore, the scientists created different theories about the way of spreading the message of a particular company by means of abbreviations for maintaining the main idea and reliability.

A wide spread of abbreviations and SMS language has its supporters. Some scientists believe, that:

  1. Some abbreviations always appear and sound like the exact words they represent, for instance: AIDS - Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome; FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions; ESP - Especially. By means of the abbreviations of this type, the advertisement becomes more intelligible than in cases of the full forms.
  2. Numerous abbreviations are used for naming various countries, regions and localities. In contrast to the full forms, the abbreviated names are more familiar to the public. For example: the USA - the United States of America.
  3. In the short advertisements the usage of the abbreviations of big organizations, companies or institutions is more advantageous, for instance: UNICEF - United Nations Children's Fund; BBC - the British Broadcasting Co-operation; USAID -United States Agency for International Development and many others.
  4. It is also suggested to use abbreviations of professional titles when preparing a short advertisement. It saves time and space. For example: Prof. - Professor, Doc. - Docent and others.
  5. When designing a small advertisement, it is also quick and economical to use abbreviations of the period of time, month, etc. For example: p.m. stands for after noon, a.m. for before noon, Jan. for January and many others.
  6. When dealing with units of measurement, it is advised to use their symbol abbreviations, for instance: km (kilometer), m/s (metre per second) and many others.
  7. When dealing with two words/syllables that can be shortened to one word, it is advisable to use syllabic abbreviations to reduce the size of the short advertisement, for instance:  Interpol - International Police.
  8. When designing a short advertisement, it is also advisable to use the abbreviations of the media and electrical equipments. For example: TV (Television), PC (Personal Computer) and others.

Moreover, when companies/organizations use abbreviations in short advertisements, they  underline the fact, that a conveyed message maintains the meaning, which must be transmitted to the receiver. This fact is reinforced by the theory, that the message must present the words, which are quite familiar to the receivers.

The proponents of SMS language claim, that these changes are inevitable in the conditions of modernization and current trends. Fitting into the modern technology and aiding the current communication methods (like short messaging services or text messaging on mobile phones) stipulate inevitable modifications of punctuation and grammar. Short text messages facilitate the popularization of the English language all over the world. Persons of different nationalities use the English logograms and pictograms. By means of these symbols, they give meanings to the words. These methods are used in different languages, for example: in French, in German, in Chinese and others. The proponents of SMS language believe, that it increases the creativity of the English language via providing persons with opportunities to create emotions, abbreviations, slang and acronyms of their own. The feeling of freedom and individualism excites people. Therefore, the usage of short text messages becomes more efficient and popular way of communication. 

Some researchers point to the disadvantages of abbreviations and short text messages. They distinguish difficulties and a threat posed by their usage. Firstly, this is a contradiction between abbreviations. For example, MBA can be used to stand for both Masters in Business Administration and Married but Available; TV can be jointly used to represent Television and Transvestite. BC means Before Christ and Back Cover. A/C traditionally meant Alternating Current, but later it acquired a new meaning Air Conditioning. Another terrible factor of using abbreviations in short advertisements is the existence of two different abbreviations of the word. For example: Right Honourable can be presented as RT Hon or RT. Hon. The term Reverend can be abbreviated as Rev and Revd.

Ellis argues, that: "SMS language changed the manner how people write and speak" [Ellis, 2001: 52]. Yule believes, that "short texts significantly decay the degree of written communication" [Yule, 2005:31].  The usage of SMS language has a negative influence on the modern English and on the language of media across the globe. Therefore, it is undeniable, that the future existence of the English language in its pure state is at stake.

Despite a lot of problems, which are connected with the usage of SMS language and abbreviations, they have become an inseparable part of the modern English language. It is a result of globalization and a part of the development of civilization.


Baron, N.
Why Email looks like speech: Proofreading, pedagogy, and public face. Language, the media, and international communication, Oxford : Catherine's College press.
Doring, N.
Abbreviations and acronyms in SMS communication. Retrieved on 13-December -2011 from http://www.nicola-doering.de
Ellis, R.
The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kormos, J.
Speech Production and Second Language Acquisition.New York : Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Publishers.
Steinbeck J.
Analyses, Critique, Reviews and General Resources on the Grapes of Wrath, Western Washington University.
Yule, G.
Gender, Participation and Silence in the Language Classroom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.