A Beginner's Guide to Effective Email
Acronyms and JargonKaitlin Duck Sherwood
A number of new users have asked me to include a jargon/acronym page for email. Contrary to how you might feel, there is not a conspiracy out there to try to exclude you. Every group that spends any time together develops its own shorthand notation; it is not surprising that people forced to use the unnatural action of typing would be inclined towards acronyms. Some of these come from Usenet newsgroups, some of the more "gestural" ones come from Internet Relay Chat (IRC).
Obviously it would be nice of seasoned users to not pepper novices with an enormous amount of jargon, but on the Internet, nobody knows you are a newcomer.
Here are some of the most common acronyms and expressions:
- BTW - By The Way
- FYI - For Your Information
- IMHO - In My Humble/Honest Opinion
- RTFM - Read The Manual ("Manual" here refers to any documentation)
- LOL - [I] Laughed Out Loud [at what you wrote]
- RSN - Real Soon Now
- ROTFL - [I am] Rolling On The Floor Laughing [at what you wrote]
- <g> - grin
- <hug> - hug
- TTFN - Ta-Ta For Now
- YMMV - Your Mileage May Vary (taken from a disclaimer that legally must be given any time automotive fuel efficiency ratings are used in U.S. advertisements)
- TIA - Thanks In Advance (also sometimes written advTHANKSance)
Jargon that is sometimes used:
- spam - Unsolicited email sent to many people simultaneously, usually commercial, but occasionally political.
- bounce - A message that was returned to the sender, either because the email address was incorrect or because there was a configuration problem on the receiver's end. Can also be a verb: "I tried sending email to my Aunt Mabel, but it bounced. I guess she doesn't work there any more."
- distribution list - A single email address that resends to many others, allowing a discussion to continue easily among a quasi-stable group of participants. Also called emailing lists or listservs (from LIST SERVers).
- bot - A piece of software that acts on behalf of and in place of a remote human (from roBOT).
- mailbot - A piece of software that automatically replies to email.
- listbot - A piece of software that manages distribution lists. Also called a listserver or majordomo (after the name of a common list server).
- post - Send to a distribution list or Usenet newsgroup, i.e. to a quasi-stable group of people.
- flame - An electronic message that is particularly hostile. Can also be a verb: "Whooeee! I posted a rude cat joke to my company's cat-lovers mailing list, and wow, did I get flamed!"
- lurk - To read messages anonymously (in either a mailing list or Usenet newsgroup) without posting.
- ping - Test to see if the other person is there/awake/available. (This comes from a Unix test to see if a machine (or its net connection) was active or not.) "Lunch tomorrow? I may be busy with a client. Ping me at eleven thirty or so."
A term that I would love to see popularized is "NRN", for "No Response Needed". Sometimes, without body language, it isn't clear when an email-based conversation should be ended. While FYI often means that a response isn't expected, the primary purpose of FYI is to indicate that it's something of low importance.
To unravel jargon and technical Internet terms, see also the fine Internet Literacy Consultants' Glossary of Internet Terms. There is also a Dictionary of Computer Acronyms and Jargon. A simpler list is at Harry Yeatts' acronyms page.
Go on to Domain Names
Created 30 Dec 1995
Modified 7 Dec 1998 - added a few expressions
Modified 28 Dec 1998 - added a link, "flame", and removed "MORF"
Modified 18 Jan 1999 - added bounce, distribution list
Modified 25 Jan 1999 - added bots, lurk, post
Moved bibliography to be the last appendix, beautified page 23 May 2001
Please see the copyright notice.