Texting 101: Just for Grandparents

You Don't Have to Use Textspeak or Emoticons -- But You Can!

Young Adult Granddaughter With Grandmother
Exchanging texts with family members can be great fun. Photo © Kondoros Éva Katalin | Vetta | Getty Images

Okay. We've established that grandparents should know how to text. That's the why. Here's the how.

Emoticons and Emojis

You may just know them as smileys, but emoticons and emojis are very popular in text messages.

First came the emoticon. Digital communicators realized that they could create a sideways smiling or frowning face by using a colon, hyphen and parenthesis. Other combinations followed. Eventually software developers created programs that automatically change such keystroke combinations into correctly oriented faces.

The emoji is the hot replacement for the emoticon. Pronounced EE-MOW-GEE, these icons have been around since 1999 but really took off in 2012 when Apple added an emoji keyboard to its iPhone operating system. Emoji are still simple, but they are more varied and complex than emoticons. Popular emoji range from the smileys to cute animals to holiday themes.

Have you ever received a emoji that didn't make sense? Sometimes differences between devices or between operating systems cause problems in translating emojis. That's why in 2015 people started getting strings of alien emojis. Sometimes compatibility problems cause emojis to display as blank boxes. 

Since the person you are talking to can't see your face, an emoticon or emoji can be used to show what you are feeling when you write a message. However, good communicators work on transmitting their meaning through words and use such icons for flair, not for clarity.

Text Abbreviations

It's perfectly all right to type messages just like regular communications, with capitalization, punctuation and proper spelling. That's how most members of my family do it. It's also okay to use an occasional shortcut or acronym. Even if you don't use them, you're sure to encounter them.

Some, like YOLO, are even used in spoken communication, so it's a bonus if you understand how to translate them.

Some texting shortcuts are phonetic, such as 2 for "to," R for "are" and Y for "why." Others are acronyms. Some acronyms, such as FYI, have been used in business settings for years. Others, such as the ubiquitous LOL, have evolved over the years. (Early meanings included "little old lady," "lots of love" and "lots of luck.")

There are few etiquette guidelines for the use of text abbreviations, although I would advise grandparents to be sure of the meanings. We've all heard of grandparents who appended inappropriate textspeak to messages, misunderstanding the meaning of the acronyms. Especially be wary of any abbreviation that includes an F. Some texters object to the use of K for okay, saying that it conveys a sense of lukewarmness or "whatever." Some people feel that ending texts with a trailing ellipses gives a similar feeling.

Here are some frequently used text abbreviations that grandparents can feel comfortable using:

  • BRB= be right back
  • BTW = by the way
  • B/C = because
  • GTG = got to go (also good to go)
  • IDK = I don't know
  • IMO or IMHO = in my opinion / in my humble opinion
  • OMW = on my way
  • PLS or PLZ = please
  • TTYL = talk to you later
  • TY = thank you

Teen favorites change often, but here's a sample of some your grandchildren may use:

  • BOL = be on later
  • F2F = face to face
  • GLHF= good luck, have fun
  • IRL = in real life
  • VSF = very sad face

Want to know more? See The Secret Language of Teens.

Teens aren't the only ones who can have fun with acronyms. Save these snarky ones for your peers, your adult children or young adult grandchildren. (Use them to comment on a third party rather than directing them to the person you are texting.)

  • LMGTFY = let me Google that for you (you could easily find out)
  • RTM = read the manual (you're a little lazy)
  • SMH = shaking my head (too stupid for words)

Some jokesters have had fun creating "oldspeak":

  • OMB = oh, my back
  • LOL = living on Lipitor
  • TTYL = talk to you louder
  • WIWYA = when I was your age

    And here are some special ones for you to use with your grandchildren:

    • BBBG = bye bye be good
    • HAK = hugs and kisses
    • ILU = I love you
    • TTMAB = to the moon and back
    • YTB = you're the best

    While you're getting all hip to text messaging, why not create a couple of abbreviations of your own, just for use with your grandchildren? That combination of being cool and corny wins them over every time.