Ways of abbreviation wordbuilding in electronic correspondence

Language is the systematic creation and usage of systems of symbols – each referring to linguistic concepts with semantic or logical or otherwise expressive meanings. Language is not stable. It is always in a constant development. We can clearly see it in the usage of abbreviations in the electronic correspondence.

Abbreviations were created and used long time ago in different spheres of human activities such as sciences for example.

A, amp.







alternating current






atmospheric pressure









But nowadays due to the ever-increasing tempo of modern life and the opportunities given by new technologies they enlarge the range of spheres of their usage and we can observe abbreviations in the media, technology, and other special fields, such as cricket, baseball or the armed forces.

The reasons for using abbreviated forms are obvious enough. One is the desire for linguistic economy — the same motivation which makes us want to criticize someone who uses two words where one will do. Succinctness and precision are highly valued, and abbreviations can contribute greatly to a concise style. They also help to convey a sense of social identity. Usage of abbreviated forms can show that you belong to the part of the social group to which the abbreviations belong. Computer buffs around the world will be recognized by their fluent talk of ROM and RAM, of DOS and WYSIWY and usage of these abbreviations in their electronic communicationYou are no buff if you are unable to use such forms, or need to look them up (respectively, ‘read only memory’, ‘random-access memory’, ‘disk operating system’, and ‘what you see is what you get’). It would only irritate computer-literate colleagues and waste time or space (and thus money) if a computer-literate person pedantically expanded every abbreviated form. And the same applies to those abbreviations which have entered everyday speech. It would be strange indeed to hear someone routinely expanding BBC, NATO, USA, AIDS, and all other common abbreviations of contemporary English.

We can find different classifications of abbreviations. Apart from the common form of shortening one word, there are other types of abbreviations. These include acronym and initialism (including three-letter acronyms), apocope, clipping (reduction of a word to one of its parts), elision, syncope, syllabic abbreviation, and portmanteau (words that are made up of elements derived from 2 different words, e.g. motel = motor + hotel)

But mostly scientists distinguish two main groups of abbreviations: graphical (shortening of words and word-groups only in written speech while orally the corresponding full forms are used) and lexical abbreviations (apocope, apheresis, syncope). The causes of shortening can be linguistic and extra-linguistic. By extra-linguistic causes changes in the life of people are meant. In Modern English many new abbreviations, acronyms, initials, blends are formed because the tempo of life is increasing and it becomes necessary to give more and more information in the shortest possible time [1].

There are also linguistic causes of abbreviating words and word-groups, such as the demand of rhythm, which is satisfied in English by monosyllabic words. When borrowings from other languages are assimilated in English they are shortened. Here we have modification of form on the basis of analogy, the Latin borrowing «fanaticus» is shortened to «fan» on the analogy with native words: man, pan, tan etc.

The reading of some abbreviations depends on the context, e.g. «m» can be read as: male, married, masculine, metre, mile, million, minute, «l.p.» can be read as long-playing, low pressure.

Initialisms are the bordering case between graphical and lexical abbreviations. When they appear in the language, as a rule, to denote some new offices they are closer to graphical abbreviations because orally full forms are used, e.g. J.V. – joint venture. When they are used for some duration of time they acquire the shortened form of pronouncing and become closer to lexical abbreviations, e.g. BBC is as a rule pronounced in the shortened form.

Abbreviation of words consists in clipping a part of a word. As a result we get a new lexical unit where either the lexical meaning or the style is different from the full form of the word. In such cases as «fantasy» and «fancy», «fence» and «defence» we have different lexical meanings. In such cases as «laboratory» and «lab» we have different styles [2]. Nowadays we can distinguish the following ways of modern electronic correspondence: Electronic mail (e-mail), Short Message Service (SMS), Online chat, Blog, Instant messaging (IM), «Mailing list», Discussion forums, Facebook and Instagram. They each offer a different flavor of online communications, but they all have one linguistic feature – constant usage of specially designed abbreviations, mostly acronyms.

Examples of e-mail abbreviations are as follows. RE: or «Re:» followed by the subject line of a previous message indicates a reply to that message. FW: a forwarded message. Also written as

«FWD: «, «Fwd: « or «Fw: «. The recipient is informed that the email was originally sent to someone else, and that person has in turn forwarded a copy of the email to him or her.

OT: off topic. Used within an email thread to indicate that this particular reply is about a different topic than the rest of the thread, in order to avoid accusations of threadjacking.

EOM – end of message. Also written as «Eom» or «eom». Used at the end of the subject when the entire content of the email is contained in the subject and the body remains empty. This saves the recipient’s time because they then do not have to open the message.

SMS abbreviations: AFAIK – As far as I know

AFK – Away from keyboard THNX or THX – Thanks 2day – Today

B4 – Before

HAND – Have a nice day C U – See you

SWYP – So what’s your problem?

@ – At

TIME – Tears in my eyes SWAK – Sealed with a kiss Hh – Haha

GR8 – Great

BTW – By the way

Twitter and Instagram are two social media sites that have taken the world by storm. But they have their own language that many users, especially new ones, have a hard time understanding. The meanings behind key hashtags, abbreviations and slang terms like #FF, #TBT, #Icant, #Dead, SMH, HT, RT can be not obvious. Many of them appear in both hashtag and written format, and they are all subject to the interpretation of the particular user.

#FF – This hashtag mostly shows up on Fridays, which should give you a good indication of what one of the Fs means. The other stands for Follow, and the two combine to make the phrase «Follow Friday.» Follow Friday is essentially a Twitter holiday with the aim of getting people to follow one another. If you want someone to follow a musician, politician, friend or anyone else you think is interesting or should have more followers, simply tweet out a message listing their username (as in

@username) along with the #FF hashtag. This is usually done in list form, with users tweeting a list of usernames along with #FF, so that people who trust their judgment can add a bunch of interesting accounts to their feeds.

#TBT – (Throwback Thursday) – This is another «holiday» Twitter and Instagram hashtag, which shows up every Thursday on both sites. The impetus behind this one is that it is an opportunity for people to share photos and info that is a «throwback» to an earlier time. For instance, on Instagram, posting a picture of yourself as a child or when you were in school, or on Twitter telling a short quip about something in your past. This is a fun way for people to learn a little bit more about each other, and to see the funny or interesting past that each of us have.

SMH – This one is a carryover from the world of text-messaging, and it stands for «Shaking My Head.» Basically, it means that the user who posts it is shaking his or her head either in disgust, shame, shock or some other form of reaction to the content it is referencing.

HT or H/T – These both mean «hat tip,» and are generally used to express endorsement or admiration of the content or user being referenced.

Abbreviations used by a person mostly differ on the basis of his interests and hobbies. For example, people playing online games are likely to use chat abbreviations that are different than those used on the online auctions.

Therealotofexamplesofdifferentabbreviations, especially acronyms, in popular culture. The vivid examples can be found in lyrics of such songs as «Initials» from the musical Hair and «BFD» written by Craig Carothers which includes many ThreeLetter-Acronyms.

Nowadays there is a strong tendency to economize time for recording information and different methods had appeared: shorthand, system of rapid handwriting using symbols to represent words, phrases, and letters; leetspeak, type of online jargon in which a computer user replaces regular letters with other keyboard characters to form words phonetically; and even speedwriting method EasyScript that utilizes basic elements of English grammar to break down a word into a root and prefix and/or suffix and reduce the total number of letters written up to 55%.

Some scientists consider such process as negative. John Sutherland from University College London calls a new variety of language a «digital virus» and affirms that «texting is penmanship for illiterates», but a research was held and the most important finding was that texting does not erode children’s ability to read and write. On the contrary, literacy improves. The latest studies (from a team at Coventry University) have found strong positive links between the use of text language. The more abbreviations children use in their messages, the higher they scored on tests of reading and vocabulary. The linguistics professor David Crystal even calls «texting» a «language in evolution».

And it is really so because nowadays we can meet abbreviations not only in written form (in SMS, chat or blog) but also in oral communication. The examples can be well known ROFL and LOL.

But in fact the situation with abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms are not as frightening as people tend to think. A 2003 study of college students by Naomi Baron found that the use of initialisms even in computer-mediated communication, specifically in instant messaging, was actually lower than she had expected. Out of 2,185 transmissions, there were 90 initialisms in total. Out of the 90 initialisms, 76 were occurrences of «lol»[5].

To conclude, it is obvious that in spite of the fact that abbreviations are really used by most people for electronic communication the range of abbreviations is limited and consists mostly of wellknown acronyms and initialisms.



  1. Abbreviations Used in Science // https://mipt.ru/education/chair/foreign_languages/ mediathek/bibliothek/eng/voc-minimum
  2. Арнольд И.В. Лексикология современного английского языка. – М., 1973. – 295 c.
  3. Crystal, D. Language and the Internet. – Cambridge University Press, 2001. – 272 p.
  4. Crystal, D. Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language. – Cambridge University Press, 2003. – 505 p.
  5. Internet slang // http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/9109
Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2015
City: Almaty
Category: Philology