Ever read an email and come across a series of capital letters that made absolutely no sense? In English we like to make phrases shorter by creating these abbreviations from the first letter of each word. As typed language grew increasingly commonplace over the last twenty years, this list has grown.

Many of these acronyms are used in spoken language. While some of the items on this list (marked with *) are generally used and understood in spoken language, some of the acronyms – especially the ones created since the technological revolution – are only used in a stylized form of English by a subset of the population.

As you already know, internet language parallels spoken language in the real world, so there are levels of politeness on the internet. Therefore, some of the newer acronyms have versions with more profanity. (Stronger versions are noted in parentheses.) However, use of some acronyms containing swear words is considered more polite than actually saying the swear words, and use of these acronyms (especially those marked with ꙳) is allowed in moderately polite speech.

There are many more acronyms in English, and there are several other types of acronyms, including the following:

  • The acronym is pronounced as a single word (GIF, FOMO)
  • The acronym contains numbers, either
    • In its pronunciation only (NCAACP = N-C-double A-C-P) or
    • In the written acronym and its pronunciation (3M)
  • Letters or numbers used in the written acronym sound like words (BBQ = barbecue, IOU = I owe you, B2B = business to business)

Are any of these acronyms new to you? You can learn how to use them by listening for them, doing an internet search for examples, and asking native English speakers.

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BTW (by the way)… did you know that Lingua East offers web-based speech training? Improve your pronunciation of American English from anywhere with a stable internet connection. Visit our Services Page to learn more about our methods and to sign up for a free web-based consultation to talk to a speech trainer about getting started.