Quick Guide: How to Speak ‘Twitter’

Okay, let’s start at the very beginning for those shrewd late adopters who don’t use certain technology until it’s absolutely ridiculous not to. With twitter, we may have reached that point–that critical mass where you should at least get on board to fully understand what it is you’re rejecting.

Twitter is a social media platform that allows you to connect with others. It has formal academic potential that we explored recently that make it a difficult tool to ignore for any progressive-minded educator.

Like text messaging, you are limited to 140 characters in your messages. Unlike text messaging, your messages aren’t sent to a single person, but anyone that follows you–and viewable by the world.

Why Tweet?

Why would you want to “tweet” to the world? The same reason people write essays, blog, and vote: to be heard

Twitter started out as a “microblog” service that allowed users to talk about ideas in (extraordinarily) brief terms. It has since become more popular for link and content distribution–that is, as a way to drive traffic to other platforms such as blogs, facebook, and commerce sites.

Yes, you can block people that follow you, but don’t be paranoid. Twitter isn’t facebook; it’s meant as a kind of moving bulletin board of socialized ideas. Unlike facebook and Google+, your account can be as personal or anonymous as you’d like.

So, follow interesting people and you’ll see their messages, called “tweets.” Follow more than a couple hundred people, and this will show up as a non-stop stream of information. And if you tweet interesting stuff, you’ll eventually get some followers, making twitter an excellent way to network.

Now, there can be politics to twitter, but I won’t go into those. Everyone uses twitter differently. I use it for quick resources and to stay up to date on what’s happening as my crowd sees it (versus mass media). I have one professional account, and one personal for my hobbies and interests. As for how to “get followers,” there are great resources out there for doing that if that’s your thing. I tend towards consumption versus production on twitter myself, and one way isn’ t better than another. Use what works for you.

So if you want to take the plunge (it’s safe now–twitter is no longer on the leading edge of the internet), the only remaining barrier is one of language. Necessity is the mother of invention, and squeezing a lot of actions and ideas down into 140 characters isn’t easy. So there is twitter language.


A lot of the language is universal across texting and the internet, though some of it is twitter-specific. This list could’ve been 1000+ strong, but I tried to stick with those terms, phrases, and functions that were most commonly used (except the part about animal crackers). Some are even so ridiculous you wouldn’t be caught dead using them.


Which brings me to a secondary function of a list like this: it clearly demarks for future generations where language itself completely jumped the shark. Somewhere, Shakespeare is weeping.

  1. ?4U: Question for you
  2. .02: Two cents (i.e., one’s opinion)
  3. 1337: Leet, short for “Elite,” used to describe a symbolic form of writing by hardcore tech folks. Google it and you’ll see what I mean. As with all things internet, it can be used sarcastically
  4. 420: Marijuana
  5. 2GTBT: Too good to be true
  6. A3: Anytime, anyplace, anywhere
  7. ADDY: Address, usual in regards to an email address
  8. AFAIK: As far as I know
  9. AFK: Away from keyboard
  10. AYTMTB: And you’re telling me this because…
  11. Beast/Beastmode: A positive description that can be used as an adjective or adverb
  12. BBIAM: Be back in a minute
  13. BBL: Be back later
  14. BRB: Be right back
  15. BTDT: Been there, done that
  16. BTW: By the way
  17. DM: Direct message, this allows you to send messages to someone on twitter without others seeing it, though it requires users follow one another. This isn’t hugely popular, as it is essentially a cruder form of email, and is usually only used by two people who aren’t close enough to email, but want to take a quick idea “offline” and out of their public twitter feed
  18. Epic Fail: The worst kind of fail
  19. Fail: Often used sarcastically to mock an attempt to do something
  20. FB: Facebook
  21. Follow: On twitter, this is how you choose to receive a person’s status updates. Without following someone (similar to friending people on facebook), you won’t see their updates
  22. FTW: For the win (indicating something positive, such as “Free ham sandwich for the win)
  23. FTL: For the loss (indicating something negative, or undesirable, as in “Speeding ticket FTL)
  24. FWIW: For what it’s worth
  25. FYEO: For your eyes only
  26. H/T: Hat tip (as an informal source citation)
  27. HFAC: Holy flippin’ animal crackers
  28. HTH: Hope that helps
  29. ICYMI: In case you missed it
  30. IKR: I know right
  31. IMHO: In my humble or honest opinion
  32. JSYK: Just so you know
  33. K: Terse version of “okay,” often meant to indicate tone
  34. LMK: Let me know
  35. n00b: A novice
  36. NSFW: Describes content not safe to be viewed at work (or school)
  37. OG: Original gangster (indicating pioneering or legendary status of some sort)
  38. OTOH: On the other hand
  39. PIR: Parents in the room
  40. RT: Retweet (Very similar to an email forward but on twitter; if you re-broadcast someone else’s message to all of your followers, you’re “Re-tweeting.”)
  41. SMH: Shake my head (to indicate disappointment, disagreement, etc.)
  42. TIA: Thanks in advance
  43. TFTF: Thanks for the follow (on twitter)
  44. TMI: Too much information–usually used–surprise–ironically
  45. Trending: A label that indicates something is popular on twitter at the moment
  46. #: A hashtag that acts like a sort of magnet for all messages appended with that hashtag. This automatic aggregator allows for users to find messages labeled as such (#soirritating, for example)
  47. #FF/#Follow Friday: “Follow Friday,” a weekly event where twitter users recommend other twitter accounts worth following
  48. YGM: You’ve got mail (like an alert letting reader know to check their mail, which implies email’s lack of popularity compared to social media messaging)
  49. YMMV: Your mileage may vary
  50. YT: YouTube

Sources: Webopedia, Techland, and all the 8th graders I taught On-Demand Writing to over the years.


  1. janice

    May 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Guess what? I shall tweet this!

  2. Jason Bratcher

    June 3, 2012 at 3:05 am

    Thou shall tweet this and tell the tworld all atwout it!
    JSYK, some people will also write their own shorthand to efficienize Twitter further.