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Understanding emoticons and text abbreviations

If you're new to the Internet, you'll probably notice that a lot of messages contain odd-looking punctuation and words. Internet users have developed this kind of "shorthand" so they can express certain feelings and thoughts more quickly. Two common types of this "shorthand" are emoticons and text abbreviations.

Points to remember:

  • Abbreviations are only effective if the person you send them to can understand what they mean. You might want to include an explanation of an abbreviation the first time you use one.
  • If you want to appear professional and formal, avoid using emoticons and abbreviations.
  • Use emoticons sparingly. more than one emoticon per sentence or message is usually too much.
  • Some emoticons can have more than one meaning, especially if they are used in a sarcastic manner. For this reason, be sure to consider the context of a conversation when you are using or interpreting an emoticon.


An emoticon (created from the words emotion and icon) is a series of punctuation marks, symbols, or letters used to represent a facial expression or emotion, and are usually found at the end of a sentence. The most common ones involve some form of smile or frown, so they're sometimes called smileys.The following list contains some of the more common emoticons and the emotion or facial expression they represent.

Emoticon Represents
:-) Smiling, happiness
:-( Frowning, sadness, or displeasure
;-) Winking, joking, or teasing
:-D Smiling broadly or laughing
:-p Sticking out his or her tongue; dismissal or impudence
:~( Crying
>:-( Anger
O:-) Angelic behavior
:-O Surprise, shock, or screaming
:-I Indifference, boredom
:-/ or :-\ Indecisiveness, confusion, or skepticism; wry humor
:-x Intention to keep a secret ("My lips are sealed") or a kiss
:-* A kiss
{{{name}}} A hug for the person whose name is contained

Text Abbreviations

People often use abbreviations for commonly used phrases so they can write and send text messages more quickly. These abbreviations are usually formed from the first letter of each word in a phrase. The following table lists some of the more common text abbreviations in use:

Abbreviation What it means
BRB Be right back
BTW By the way
CUL8R See you later
G8RZ Gators
GMTA Great minds think alike
HTH Hope this helps
IMO In my opinion
JK or j/k Just kidding
LOL Laughing out loud
NRN No response necessary
OIC Oh, I see.
ROFL or ROTFL Rolling on the floor laughing
TTYL Talk to you later
GRU Flushables