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What are the rules for texting in English?


There are no formal rules for writing SMS/texts. There are, however, some conventions. 

Texts (SMS) often


  • use short sentences
  • break grammar & spelling rules
  • contain neologisms
  • use short forms including acroynms & abbreviations

Are ‘text words’ easy to understand?
SMS short-forms are usually easy to recognise. Most take the first letter of a word or each word in a phrase e.g OMG

Some are already in general English (e.g. ASAP for ‘as soon as possible’.). Others follow the same rule AAMOF for "as a matter of fact" IMHO for "in my humble opinion," or PLMK for please let me know.

Which short-forms are most confusing?
Neologisms from common words or phrases. These are usually based on the sound e.g. B4 (before), NE (any). Some are invented e.g  W? (why).

Some confusing short-forms
AIGHT: Alright * GB: Goodbye * GL: Good luck * HV: Have * K or KK: Okay *
M8: Mate * O\VA: Over * PEEPS/PPL: People * PLS: Please * PZ: Peace * TTLY: Totally

What are the most common short forms?

Here is a selection

BBS: Be back soon  * CM: Call me * CYE: Check your email
DIKU: Do I know you? * F2F: Face to face * HB: Hurry back *JFF: Just for fun
LOL: Laugh out loud or Lots of love  * OMG: Oh my God! *  PLMK: please let me know * PSOS: Parents standing over shoulder * TMB: Text me back * TXT: Text

Some abbreviations cause confusion. British Prime Minister David Cameron famously ended a text LOL. For most texters this means ‘laugh out loud’ but he meant the more old fashioned ‘lots of love’!

Do we still need text short forms?
Most smart phones now make typing complete words much easier. You don’t need to use short-forms but many still do. In quick texts they are fine

Should you use short-forms in a professional text?
There is debate about this - see this from an online message board
Quick Check for English language learners
True or false?
1. Texting has a special set of rules
2. Grammar and spelling can be different to standard English
3. Texts often use short forms.
4. Most short forms are difficult to understand
4. Short forms were not around before texts.
5. Never use short forms in business texts

Can you change this text to standard English?
V. srry abt your b-day! Want to say srry F2F & in London on Saturday. Can we meet up? I have a present 4U.

Who do you think is texting? Why? Find out in the fun Fred & Rita story The Birthday Present

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