At my office we make heavy use of IM (ex. Skype) for communication, partially since half our team is offshore. However people commonly disregard spelling and make excessive use abbreviations resulting in conversation which can be difficult to understand.

For example a message might looks like

talk 2 evrey on l8r

rather than

Talk to everyone later.

While I understand that proper grammar is normally disregarded in chat, it can downright confusing trying to understand what people are trying to say.

The tricky part for me is I am an intern who has been with the company for about a month and as such feel it could be rude asking people to communicate more clearly. Clearly this practice has been accepted by the rest of the group and I will only be around for a few more months. Do I just tough it out and ask for clarification as required or raise it as something the group could do better?

Ps. XKCD knows how I feel:

XKCD writing st

  • Politely ask for clarification every single time annoying acronyms, slang or 1337speak pops up. Maybe you can condition them to use proper English ;-)
    – René Roth
    Jun 1, 2014 at 16:34

3 Answers 3


Do I just tough it out and ask for clarification as required or raise it as something the group could do better?

My suggestion would be to consider having a private chat with a couple of co-workers to see what they suggest. I suspect there may be some that are more likely to make typos and there is something to be said for how some people may not make typos in some circumstances compared to others,e.g. if there is a production issue that requires coordinating a few people together then the person that usually makes typos may type perfectly for a while. The main reason for having these chats is to just see if this has been raised previously and what would make sense here as there may be more to the story than what you already know.


Since they are communicating with you,you have the right to ask for clarification at any time. You should also escalate with your boss.

Typos on top of excessive abbreviations are not a happy combination. One of the things I hated about learning English, by the way, is how a single comma out of place can change the meaning of a whole sentence.

I personally find IM-type abbreviations distateful because the use of proper,unambiguous language takes only a few more keystrokes. It's simply lazy to communicate that way and it increases the probability of misunderstandings and non-understandings. And if there is one thing we don't need in a professional environment, it's misunderstandings and non-understandings. In case anyone is wondering, I have used IM for years in connection with a former employer.

  • While it may or may not apply to the OP, the reason IM-type abbreviations came about is because of the number of character limits placed by early electronic communication mechanisms. This later evolved into being a way for kids to talk in "code" that their parents wouldn't understand. As things evolved, for many "younger" people, it is more natural to type this way. Also, an extra character or 2 can be a big deal. I tried using my son's Ipod last night and my fingers are too big to hit the correct letters. Had me cursing. Saving a character or 2 really helps with those on-screen keyboards.
    – Dunk
    Jun 2, 2014 at 19:56
  • 2
    Yeah, not only can a single comma change the meaining of sentence, but also a single upper/lower case change. Consider: "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse." Jun 2, 2014 at 20:10

Chatting is generally considered to communicate more ideas quickly. So it is fine to use informal communication as it is generally easy to understand and delivers clear ideas in less words.

But short hands are not helpful if they are not understandable. I would recommend them to continue using the chatting style they are using. And would like you to point out right when you don't understand. This would let them know that not everyone in group is aware of their shortcuts, hence they need to use more standard version of words.

Also, with time, you will start understanding their intent. Also as this is informal communication, no one would feel offended if someone asks them to elaborate more on the meaning.

  • Thanks. Somebody recommending that you adapt instead of expecting others to conform to your desires. That's quite a departation from today's me, me, me society.
    – Dunk
    Jun 2, 2014 at 19:59
  • On the other hand, if the adaption doesn't "take", it can add stress to the job and problems...despite being a little thing...that builds resentment. It's not a me, me, me society thing so much as a "my brain must take time to analyze and process this and I'm too tired to keep doing this every #$%^ time ARGH" stressor. Brain wiring does weird things. Jun 11, 2014 at 20:30

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