Text Abbreviations: What They Are and When to Use Them

20 July 2022

What are text abbreviations and how did they come about?

Text abbreviations are a young person’s game, aren’t they? Well, yes, they might have started out that way. Every generation thinks they can change the English language and in some way they do. Text abbreviations are the largest advance of language in modern history. Ignore them at your peril. However new we think they are, acronyms date back to ancient Egyptian time ancient scrolls were found to contain the abbreviation DN which is short for Dominus Noster, meaning Our Lord. But according to the New York Times (2010), the earliest known use of initialism is from 1844, in an article in “The Christian’s Monthly Magazine and Universal Review” discussing SPQR, an abbreviation of the Latin phrase Senatus Populusque Romanus (“The Senate and People of Rome”). 

Abbreviations didn’t really take flight until the 20th century, when they became a more common form of communication. Since the rise of SMS marketing, acronyms are much more common and can get a message across very quickly and efficiently. 

Abbreviations may be confusing if you are not used to them but people who send regular text messages and subscribe to SMS marketing messages will more than likely be familiar with them, so, if you are looking to promote your business through text message marketing then you will need to get on board. More and more companies are using them now, so don’t get left behind.

It makes total sense when you think about it, as a society, we are all glued to our phones. Walk down any busy high street and you will see ordinary people walking around staring at their mobile phones. Perhaps this is why text messages have a 97% fast open rate, unlike more traditional marketing channels such as email marketing. The average person looks at their mobile phone every 4 minutes!

With the increasing popularity of mobile phone use and texting, it’s natural that we want to be able to do this as quickly as possible because we are all so busy. This is where text abbreviations are helping us out. Try not to think of it as scary, but rather efficient. Instead of backing away because it seems so new-age, let’s learn about it and embrace it, in particular, understand what it can do to boost your business. 

Why text abbreviations work

Each text message has a limit of 160 characters. If what you want to say contains more than 160 characters then it may be necessary to send two SMS marketing messages to do the same job. This is inefficient for a business and irritating for a subscriber who is likely to read the first text message and then ignore the second. The other issue with very long texts is that they are boring and defeat the object when you are trying to fit into the fast paced world of your engagers. You need to hit the right note and catch the eye to get the customer engagement you seek.

When is the right time to use text abbreviations?

Choosing the right occasion for text abbreviations does require some careful consideration. It depends on the vibe you are trying to create for your SMS marketing strategies. Consider your customers and your potential customers, what do they want to read? There will always be types of SMS marketing messages that clearly do not work well with abbreviations. You need to ensure that your recipient understands what they are reading and also that they appreciate a bit of text speak. Here’s some things to bear in mind:

  • Mature customers – for customers over the age of 55, it’s extremely likely that many of them are not going to appreciate text message abbreviations or may be confused by them. It’s not something they use in their everyday lives. 
  • Younger customers – People aged between 26-44 are used to instant mobile phone interaction so, being able to get the gist of an SMS marketing message on the first line is useful and likely to score you more engagement. This is especially important when you consider that many people today are using smartwatches, and can quickly glance at text messages with the flick of a wrist when they are not even with their mobile devices.
  • Being on-trend – Your younger audience are going to be seriously unimpressed if you are using abbreviations that are no longer used much or considered to be cringe-worthy. Acronyms such as YOLO (you only live once) and FOMO (fear of missing out) may still be used occasionally by the more mature audience but many younger people will not have heard these abbreviations or worse still, they may associate them with phrases their parents use.  
  • Serious messages – another inappropriate use of text message abbreviations is perhaps when you want to send out serious messages such as bill reminders, overdraft notifications, booking confirmations. You wouldn’t expect to see “TTFN” on a school closure text because it’s unprofessional and unnecessary.

If you know that your subscribers fit into a particular category and are likely to be using text abbreviations in their everyday messages, it will fit with what they are used to seeing and can help to develop trust in your brands. Maybe they enjoy the friendly tone or feel that you have your finger on the pulse, you know where it’s at! 

Why your tone of voice is important in as SMS marketing messages

Over 55s holiday you will not get much approval from this group demographic when you send out text messages like this:

“OMG 25% cruise discount when you text back CREW22. Hurry this TOTES AMAZE offer ends at midnight tonight”

However, it could work with a more familiar and older abbreviation such as ASAP. The text message example could work well with a younger, Instagram-savvy crowd, who like the familiarity of the tone and use the words themselves in their own text messages. For example:

“OMG 25% off all Jeans! Hurry, this Totes Amaze offer ends at midnight tonight. Click the link!”

Text abbreviations can be over-familiar to some people, but others will crave that level of connection because that is what they have come to expect from many brands, it can make them feel special and encourage two-way communication.

The dos and don’ts of Acronyms and abbreviations in SMS marketing messages

Using acronyms and abbreviations in SMS marketing messages requires common sense. You know yourself in your own text message communications where there is a place for text-speak and where there isn’t. One consideration is to always be aware of your audience demographic and make your text messages appropriate. 

Just to be clear, here are some text abbreviation DON’TS:

  • Booking and appointment confirmations and reminders
  • Payment reminders
  • Security code SMS
  • Confirmations of subscriptions or purchases
  • Any SMS marketing messages that require a serious tone

Remember that text message abbreviations for SMS marketing messages can be a really useful tool. Not only do they keep the size of your text messages down but they can also reach people in the way they like to communicate with others. 

DO use test message abbreviations and acronyms for:

  • Flash sales
  • Special offers and vouchers
  • Shopping cart reminders
  • Welcome SMS messages
  • Light-hearted news and updates
  • Feedback

Familiarise yourself with popular text abbreviations (Get down with the kids)

Make sure you familiarise yourself with the latest and most popular SMS message abbreviations. With two-way communication enabled in SMS marketing messages, you may even get some abbreviations back and will need to be able to decode them. There can be nothing more embarrassing than sending out the wrong abbreviation, you could end up very red-faced indeed! Here are our golden rules to spare your blushes:

  • Double-check and check again that your abbreviations and acronyms are correct.
  • Never make up your own acronyms or abbreviations – unless it’s a strong part of your branding.
  • Make sure that the acronyms and abbreviations you do use are still popular and in use.
  • Match your acronyms and abbreviations to your target audience. Different age groups require different abbreviations. Personalisation is key

SMS marketing messages can be very impersonal and this can turn-off some recipients. Think about your own experience with your mobile phone. It is always important in marketing to be able to put yourself into the shoes of your intended target. Get to know how they think and feel. Explore the relationship that people have with their phones, what do they use them for?  For most mobile phone owners, the text messages they typically send and receive are exchanged with friends and family.

Read through your SMS marketing messages and make sure that it hits that same vibe. Let them know that you are there for your subscribers and that they are special – be more like a mate than a business. There are many everyday abbreviations that pass between friends in text messages and these will be the ones they are used to seeing and will be able to decode on view.   

To enhance the customer experience, you can include a personal touch such as their name or product you know they have been eyeing up. Remember their birthdays or the anniversary of their first interaction with your company. This is how you begin to build trust. Personalised messages very often encourage two-way SMS conversation from your consumers.

Check out our top tips for writing marketing copy.

Introduce text abbreviations slowly

If your usual consumers are not used to you using SMS marketing messages containing abbreviations and acronyms, it’s a good idea to start slowly and build on it. If you suddenly leap in with as many acronyms in your texts as you can manage, your customers may become confused. Many of your consumers may not be comfortable with a change of this nature, so it needs to be managed carefully and orchestrated slowly so as not to cause alarm.

It’s important to understand that  a sudden change to your SMS marketing communication style may also change the company tone of voice, which can in turn affect your brand identity. Your subscribers may not recognise your brand within the text message.

What are the most popular text message abbreviations?

If you think that text message abbreviations and acronyms could help you to get your point across, take a look at our list of must-know acronyms, we’ve added some examples and explanations for some of them for you:

25 vital internet acronyms and abbreviations

  1. ASAP: As soon as possible – This is good for an urgent call to action and universally recognized by nearly all adults. “Text “YES” to 34088 to claim yours ASAP”
  2. AYOR: At your own risk – Used playfully, it could be great for a Halloween-themed notification.
  3. BAU: Business as usual – Good for addressing changes or letting the customer know that you are still open during holidays etc.
  4. DIY: Do it yourself – Very well-known phrase, is comfortable for use with all different types of consumers or engagers.
  5. DM: Direct message – this one means straight to your inbox. This could help to build a relationship with your engager. For example, “Want to find out more about this great offer DM us”. Coupled with a link to your website could drive traffic to your business.
  6. FB: Facebook – Only people who have been living under a rock for the last 15 years won’t be familiar with this one. Companies may ask subscribers to like their FB page for a discount.
  7. FYI: For your information – Another well-known acronym. It’s good for making customers feel as though they are being let into a secret.
  8. G2G: Got to go – Closing down sale perhaps “Hurry, everything’s G2G”
  9. HIFW: How I feel when – “HIFW I am wearing lip gloss from……”
  10. IMO: In my opinion – This one may need careful consideration as its in the first person, so a message with IMO would need to come from a company icon perhaps.
  11. JIC: Just in case – “JIC you run out, we have a discount code to keep you supplied”
  12. LOL: Laughing out loud – “You’ll LOL when you hear that to honour the Queen’s jubilee, our tiaras are all half price this weekend only”
  13. MSG: Message – “Want to know more MSG back “YES””
  14. OOO: Out of office – Probably not a good one for an SMS marketing message LOL!
  15. PAW: Parents are watching – This is teen code and may need to be avoided if your target market is more mature adults. PAW could be good for advertising gifting aimed at younger adults. “Shhh! PAW, go somewhere quiet and order a card from……. for Mother’s day today!”
  16. RN: Right now – “There is a sale happening RN, head over to our website to bag a bargain”
  17. RT: Real time – This also means, happening right now.
  18. TFW: That feeling when – “TFW you have booked your summer holiday! Text “SUMMER” to 33495 to get our latest offers!”
  19. TIA: Thanks in advance – Appropriate for the end of a call to action on a text message.
  20. OMG: Oh my god – A very strong start to an SMS marketing text message to get the consumers excited about what is to come.
  21. TTYL: Talk to you later
  22. WFH: Work from home – one of the most widely used acronyms since the start of the global pandemic.
  23. YNK: You never know – “YNK when you might need new prescription glasses, we’re here for you when you do! TEXT GLASSES to 34389 now for a free eye test and 25% off your first purchase!”
  24. IRL: In real life
  25. FTW: For the win – this is very popular in SMS marketing messages right now and in many texts. It means that something is amazing!

 Ready to start sending SMS?

At Text Anywhere, we care about your SMS marketing strategies and experiences. That’s why we are on hand to give you plenty of tips and advice to get you started or to help you to move in a different direction. Whatever you need to fulfil your text marketing desires, we can help!

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