LOL! BRB! If you already know what those things mean (“laughing out loud” or “lots of laughs” and “be right back”), then chances are you might know a thing or two about texting.
The abbreviations and slang that are most commonly used to send brief text messages via mobile phones are known as SMS language. You might have also heard them called a wide variety of other things, including textspeak, textese, txt-speak, txtese, chatspeak, txtspk or texting language.
SMS itself is an abbreviation for the “short message service” communication protocol. In addition to text messages, SMS language is also often used on the Internet in emails and instant messaging.
The popularity of SMS language has exploded in the past several years. As mobile phones have grown in popularity, so has SMS language. You’ll often see SMS language used in television shows and movies.
Although SMS language has grown more popular recently, it’s certainly not a new invention. People have been looking for ways to abbreviate long phrases and communicate more efficiently for hundreds of years.
For example, many SMS language phrases are similar to those used long ago when sending telegraph messages. Since people sending telegraphs were charged by the word, it wasn’t long before people were looking for ways to shorten their messages in order to save money.
SMS language takes advantage of all different sorts of abbreviations consisting of numbers and letters. For example, “wrud?” is a common abbreviation for the phrase “what are you doing?” Likewise, “l8r” stands for the word “later.”
The goal of SMS language is to use the fewest number of characters possible. This helps when dealing with the space constraints of text messaging via mobile phone, since some mobile phone carriers limit the number of characters for each message.
SMS language also helps users to type less and communicate faster. Often, SMS language messages can mean more than one thing, so users must interpret the intended meaning from the context of the message.
One side effect of communicating via SMS language is that punctuation, grammar and capitalization are usually ignored. This has led some people to be critical of students using SMS language. Some fear that using SMS language too much might have a negative effect on students’ language skills.
Those fears may be unfounded, though. Both David Crystal and Dr. Nanagh Kemp have studied SMS language and found that its use actually coincides with a good grasp of grammar and phonetics. Their studies show that SMS language may lead to an overall improvement in literacy levels in students.