Elements of Cyberspeech: A Glossary

© 1994-1996 by Gloria G. Brame

First published in KNOW-HOW Magazine, May 1994. Revised and expanded, 1996.

To keep keystrokes to a minimum, on-liners abbreviate phrases and terms by using abbreviations, acronyms, and emoticons (those funny little faces). The reason people use these sometimes annoying abbreviations and symbols is to help give readers a sense of the writer's mood or intention. For example, adding a (grin) or (g) lets people know that the author is merely a light-hearted waif, having a bit of fun. See the difference when you use the short-hand for "very big grin" (vbg):

"Tis bitter cold, and I am sick at heart. (vbg)"


"Tis bitter cold, and I am sick at heart."

See the amazing difference? Sense the existential angst in the second version, as opposed to the joie de vivre in the first? Of course you do!

Aside from conveying feeling, abbreviations are helpful in the fast-paced Net environment. The acronyms used to convey emotion are usually enclosed in brackets or parentheses; abbreviated expressions are not.

Example "IMHO, use every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping? YMMV (g,d,&r)."

Translation In my humble opinion, use every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping?
Your mileage may vary (grinning, ducking and running).

Can anyone doubt that "Hamlet" would be improved by Cyberspeech?

Below is a list of the most popular acronyms used on the Net.


AFK: Away from keyboard. Means the individual will be off-line and unable to read or reply to messages.

BG: Big grin

BBS: Electronic bulletin board system.

BRB: Be right back. Usually used during real-time chats.

BTW: By the way.

CO: Conference, or real-time on-line conversation

EG: Evil Grin.

EMOK: Email OK. Readers are free to send private mail.

F2F: Face to Face. An in-person (v. cyber) meeting.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Question(s). FAQs--text documents--are regularly posted throughout UseNet on specific topic areas.

FUBAR: Fucked up beyond all recognition.

FWIW: For what it's worth. This acronym is used to modify or tone down the abrasive opinion one is about to issue.

G: Grin. Cyberfolk are a happy lot who also laugh aloud and roll on the floor in delight. See LOL and ROFL below.

GA: Go ahead. Prompts someone to "speak up" during interactive chat.

GD&R;: Grinning, ducking, and running. Wits who make really bad puns feel compelled to flee the listener's imaginary punch. If the pun is atrocious, they start GD&R;,VVF (very very fast).

GMTA: Great minds think alike.

IANAL: I am not a lawyer. Writers remind readers that on-line opinions are personal, not legal.

IMHO: In my humble opinion. The self-confident writer uses IMO (in my opinion) or IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion).

IMPO: In my personal opinion.

IMX: In my experience. (Also: IME)

IOW: In other words.

IRC: Internet Relay Chat. The live-chat area on the Net.

LOL: Laughing out loud.

OIC: Oh, I see!

OTOH: On the other hand.

PIQ: The party (or person) in question. You know who you are!

PITA: Not a Middle Eastern bread, but a pain in the ass.

PMFJI or PMJI: Pardon me for jumping in or pardon my jumping in. Used before sticking one's two cents into others' conversation.

PMS: It's the same in any language.

POV: Point of view.

PTB: Powers that be. Usually refers to network management or any governing authority.

RL: Real life (v. cyber-life). A distinction which becomes increasingly important the longer one surfs the Net.

ROFL: Rolling On Floor, Laughing. Really giddy types may find themselves ROFLMAO (Rolling On Floor, Laughing My Ass Off).

RSN: Real soon now. A direct descendent of "the check is in the mail."

RTD or RTM or RTFM/RTFD: Read the documentation, read the manual, or (when really annoyed) read the fucking manual/documentation.

S: Smile

SO: Significant Other.

SYSOP: System operator, the chief administrator of a message board. May be known as SIGOP (signal operator) or WIZOP.

3-D: Three dimensional, i.e., real life.

TBH: To be honest.

TIA: Thanks in advance.

TIC: Tongue in cheek.

TPTB: The powers that be. A nice way of referring to those damned authorities.

2-D: Two dimensional: refers to cyber reality.

VBG: Very big grin.

WEG: Wide evil grin.

WRT: With regard to.

WYSIWYG: What you see is what you get.

YMMV: Your mileage may vary. Used to indicated that you know others' experiences may differ from yours.


Emoticons are ASCII (plain text) graphics. To read these, tilt your head to the left until the dots look like a pair of eyes. (BTW, the noses are optional.)

:-) user is smiling or joking

:-( user is angry or sad

:-o user is surprised or scared

:-@ user is screaming or cursing

:-I user is perplexed

:') user's tongue is in user's cheek; or user's nose is out of joint. Context counts for this one.

;-) user is being mischievous or sarcastic

8-) user wears glasses, and is smiling

:-# Well, shut my mouth!

Note: Cyber regulars frequently include additional clues to denote their frame of mind by enclosing information in brackets. Examples: (giggle), (smirk), (chuckle), (shrug), (sigh).

For help minding your on-line manners, read Netiquette.

copyright © 1995 & 1996 Dr. Gloria G. Brame