Do you overuse abbreviations?

(Looking for an update on my progress on friends, love, work, and other goals? Just follow those links (spoiler alert: I didn’t make much progress in February!). I have a few deadlines coming up for this month so I have to be more focused. At the top of the list is the 2014 Nigerian Blog Awards. If I’m going to deliver on my promise of a live event in Lagos this year I need to get those arrangements moving; God help me!)

It all started with text messages (SMS), I’m sure: we had to keep our messages short, in the 140-160 character range, because that’s all SMS could handle in one message. If you sent a longer message you could expect it to be broken down into several messages (iMessage, BBM, Viber, and Whatsapp messages are sent over the internet rather than the phone network so they’re not really SMS vehicles in my mind). Sending SMSes costs money so abbreviations make sense from a financial point of view. Then Twitter came along with its 140 character limit, leading to the need to be creative with how you convey information (unless you have no problem flooding people’s timelines with a large number of tweets). But just because SMS and Twitter restrict the number of characters per message, it doesn’t mean we have to carry that to Facebook updates, comments on blogs, and emails! There’s a place for different types of communication.

Confession: in my four years as a smart phone owner, I’ve always had unlimited international text messages, and this completely spoiled me for texting because I’ve not had to watch how many text messages I send, nor abbreviate to save money. If I’m having a long conversation on Whatsapp or BBM, I’ll sometimes use abbreviations to match the tone and lingo of the conversation but since I’m not known for short writings it’s no wonder that I’m not really into abbreviations in emails, blog posts, or in comments, and to be more specific it’s the use of abbreviations for simple and common words that gets to me.

What I dislike about the overuse of abbreviation

It makes you look lazy

The worst offence in this category is the simple Happy Birthday message that you see on people’s Facebook walls. Birthdays come along once a year; how much time does it take to type out a short greeting? No, seriously, get out your phone or watch and time how long it takes you to write one or two sentences—one minute and you’re done! Instead I see (mostly on Nigerian Facebook users’ walls) the following message to the birthday boy or girl: “HBD”. That’s it. Seriously?! Or if they’re feeling particularly chatty, you might see “HBD LLNP” (“long life and prosperity”). Even if it was on Twitter you’d have more than enough characters to repeat “Happy Birthday, Name” six times! That “HBD” comes across as impersonal, sent out of a sense of obligation, it makes the writer look lazy, and makes me think “why bother?”. When you receive such a message does it stay with you? Do you feel special? Maybe if quantity is more important than quality to the person. And sure, it’s the thought that counts but there’s very little thought behind a “HBD” in my opinion!

It may cause confusion, especially if the abbreviation isn’t obvious, or if it could have more than one meaning

I admit it: I’m at the age where I can refer to people in their early twenties as “kids”, since they’re a full decade younger than me. So when kids use abbreviations that save you just one letter, I wonder if it’s worth it (examples: “lyf” (cringe) instead of “life” (and “lyk” instead of “like”), “ar” instead of “are”, “dis” instead of “this”, “wit” or “wiv” instead of “with”. Ok, I get it: if we save one character here and there, in the end we save a few, which means we can include more in one message, but when the shortened word causes confusion about which word it’s an abbreviation of because the abbreviation is actually another word (such as “bin” for “been” or “den” for “then”), that’s when I question its value. I know I’m just being a grump and maybe “kids” are using this lingo because they find it cool, but I’d save it for SMS and BBM rather than emails. It looks unprofessional—consider your audience before you decide on the appropriateness of certain abbreviations, especially in an email.

It’s a free world, so very few people are going to overhaul their way of communicating because some girl who uses far too many words has an opinion on the use of abbreviations. And I actually think bloggers who write the way they talk add a lot of charm and personality to their blogs. That being said, I’d encourage chronic abbreviators to consider who they’re reaching out to and what they’re trying to convey in their message before resorting to shortnd txt instd of full sentcs.

What abbreviated version of a word drives you the most nuts?

16 thoughts on “Do you overuse abbreviations?

  1. i have a pretty good suspicion that the people that use this abbreviations dont read your blog :) ( i av a prty gd spicion dat de pipl dat use dis abbreviations dont rid ur blg)….not sure if i translated that right, it was hard to do and I don’t know that I saved many characters!

    • LOL! Good point, MPB—I’m preaching to the choir here. I found it hard to type using abbreviations too; it’s hard to believe that these kids learned English in school.

  2. Oh my gawsh, biggest pet peeve ever!!! How can a high school/secondary school graduate write things like: lyf, wyl, pipo, dat, dis, tym, wee (for will), spag (for spaghetti), etc.

    It drives me nuts, to say the least.

    • Argh! I’m with you on this as you know. I guess we can count on you to make sure that Baby BerryCakes will know how to write properly!

  3. Forget laziness! I see this as over-hyped, celebrated ignorance. Not just the abbreviations, the stupid cliches as well. To see almost every Nigerian youth speaking like that is painful, lol. No individuality at all. Just mob mentality.

    It wouldn’t grieve me so much if Nigerian celebrities aren’t leading this movement. They’re not only misleading the pack; they’re validating this madness! Mcheww (I hope I got that right, lol)

    • Lol your use of Mcheww was perfect and I see it spelled all sorts of ways—I personally go with mschew (with extra Es and Ws as needed!) ;)

  4. Nodding in agreement! I really can’t stand those abbreviations used outside of sms. They take it to another level when the word is ‘disabbreviated’ to an even longer word, defeating the supposed purpose. You’re thinking, duh!

  5. Some abbreviations are okay. I went to the Bishop Strachan School, aka BSS. When we meet people (or are talking to people) who went to similar schools, we will definitely refer to the place as BSS (as will people who went to, say, UCC (Upper Canada College, our neighbouring boys’ school) and probably TCS (Trinity College School in Port Hope) and CDS (Country Day School in King City, Ontario)). There’s a difference between more “traditional” abbreviations and “text speak”/”Textese”, which is what you are referring to in your post.

  6. That is a good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.

    Short but very accurate information… Many thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

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  7. OMG, Nigerians are so BAD at abbreviations. I mean People in Nigeria. I avoid having written conversations with them as much as possible because I get headaches trying to decode everything. Would it kill you to write night instead of 9te. or nice instead of 9ice. and if you want to wish me a happy birthday, at least write the whole thing out.
    They must think its cool. But it makes me question the intellect of the person!

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