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What It Means When You See 'TL;DR' In Texts & Online

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woman scrolling on phone

Internet acronyms are everywhere, and it's a bit hard to keep them all straight. For example, TLDR.

Someone links you to a must-read article that has more pages in it than Tolstoy’s "War And Peace" or sends you a text that requires you to scroll so much that your fingers get a workout.

How do you respond? Do you decide to read it and take notes for an informed response, come up with a generic reply, or cut to the chase and let them know there is no way your attention span can make room for whatever they just sent you?

If you choose to cut right down to it, using "TL;DR" is your new go-to blunt response that will let them know you mean business.

If you’ve seen this in the comments section of a social media post — or worse, had someone send this to you after you DMed them a heartfelt, personal message — you’ve probably found yourself wondering what the heck TLDR means.

Here’s everything you need to know about this slang phrase, where it came from, and how to use it.

What does TLDR mean?

Also stylized as "TL;DR," this acronym stands for “too long; didn’t read.” It’s an internet slang word for those who are so pressed for time that they can’t even comprehend having to type out these 4 words.

This is for people who need fast keyboard fingers and quick replies. It’s for people who have such an aversion to words that they have come up with an abbreviation that prevents them from having to interact with their own vocabulary.

In fact, if you’re someone who believes in the power of TL;DR, you probably haven’t even read this far into this article!

Is TLDR rude, though? Some might call this response cut-throat, but really, it’s just a not-so-gentle reminder that the world is moving too fast for us to waste our time reading dragged-out Facebook statuses or news articles that don’t reveal all in their headlines.

People with TL;DR in their vernacular are usually users on Reddit or are on Twitter where opinions are expressed in 280 characters or less. They text with emojis instead of words and don’t read books.

In text, TLDR means the same thing: that the wall of text messages was too long and you didn't read it. Indeed, TLDR means your content was too long and wasn't worth reading.

Many websites have created a TLDR version of their articles as a way to get the information to busy bodies who don't have time to read the whole article. But this slang term is all about being clear and concise, and getting straight to the good stuff without all the extra padding.

Where did TLDR originate?

Like most internet trends, we don’t really know where this slang term started.

Urban Dictionary first added it to their site back in 2003. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, which accepted the word in 2018, says the term began in 2002 but has no evidence to support this claim.

It’s likely the word first originated in forums and chat rooms that ruled the internet in the early 2000s. If you were on MySpace, Friendster or 4Chan, you probably already know exactly what TL;DR means and have used it many times.

Google Analytics history shows searches for the terms “TL;DR” and “TLDR” on a slow rise since 2004, but since there's no data available prior to that year, we have no way of truly knowing when this word first emerged.

What this does show is that the word is almost as old as the internet itself, and it's certainly not on the way out anytime soon!

How To Use TLDR In Texts & Sentences

Given that this abbreviation is here to stay, you might as well add it to your list of quick-witted, snarky responses to use when someone is totally dragging you down with their boring internet content.

But it's possible to use this term constructively so everyone gets efficient information.

How do you use TLDR in a sentence? Lucky for you, here are a few slightly less passive-aggressive ways to use the term.

1. Use it followed by a request for a summary of the most valuable information from whatever it is you didn’t read.

“Hey, tight on time. TL;DR, could you let me know the key points of this piece?”

2. Use it as a warning to readers when you’re sharing a long-form text piece.

“TL;DR: this piece covers why we as a society need to increase our attention spans.”

3. Use it as a summary for people who have scrolled to the bottom of a piece without taking in the relevant information.

“TL;DR, see paragraph 3 for main points.”

4. Use it as a way to summarize in an email.

While you probably shouldn't use TL;DR in an email, since it's neither professional nor nice, you can still use terms to keep the concept of the acronym. Use "Summary" or "Conclusion," then summarize the email. This way, people don't need to read a 50+ line email.

5. Use it to explain that you just couldn't get through the long text.

"Yeah, I didn't get through that article, girl. TL;DR!"

Alice Kelly is a senior news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Based out of Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her on Twitter for more.

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