John Larrysson Column: The New Abbreviations

On a test a student wrote: U are in a bakery.

If he had used You instead of U he would have had full marks.

Numbers and letters should not normally be used as words. They might be used as a short form in text messages. These can also be used as a joke for specific situations. Making a honey cake in the shape of the letter B is a joke playing on the sound of the letter B and the word bee. Only use one such joke at a time. After that it stops being funny. Whole sentences can be made difficult to understand and no longer funny.

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Eye 8 Σ P soup by the C.



I ate some pea soup by the sea



R U going 2 have T now?



Are you going to have tea now?


If you do have to make a joke replacing words or letters with numbers, at least make it enough of a challenge to be interesting.


(√-1 + √64 ) Σ 22/7 (The solution will be provided next time)


Also numbers should not be used as L3773R5 (letters). Unless typed it looks like poor handwriting. Typed it looks stupid. It is cute as a joke, but is difficult to understand, and should not be done otherwise.

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Some online applications limit the number of characters you can use. If you are at that limit then you can use single letters as short forms. Remember that you are reducing your reader's ability to understand, to shorten your text. If it is too much of a problem, send a proper email.

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There are some people who like to use individual letters or numbers to represent whole words. They have not 1 any prize. Do not use it in writing regular letters or emails. These plays on the sounds or shape of a letter are of limited amusement and are not that original. Remember that the purpose of language is to communicate and these short forms are intended as jokes. These slang short forms are not proper English and are not to be used in business letters or on an English test.

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for more than a decade.


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