(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?