An abbreviation is a shortened or contracted form of a word or phrase, used to represent the whole. Abbreviations such as Dr. for Doctor and U.S. for United States, and lb. for pound are well known in the offline world. In the online world abbreviations, referred to as shorthand, along with acronyms and leetspeak have created a language of its own.
An acronym is derived from the first letters of a phrase and is pronounced as a new word, for example SNAFU is pronounced "sna-foo" and WOMBAT is pronounced "wahm-bat".
Shorthand refers to an alphabetism, or initialism, that is pronounced by saying the letters one-by-one, for example FYI is pronounced "F-Y-I" and BRB is pronounced "B-R-B". There are, of course, exceptions. Some acronyms go both ways, such as FAQ, which can be pronounced "fak" or "F-A-Q".
It should also be noted that acronyms are generally typed IN ALL CAPS (not to be confused with SHOUTING) whereas shorthand is often typed in all lowercase. Now let’s start to mix things up. Sometimes the shorthand isn't shorter than the original phrase, for example "dewd" means "dude" and "kewl" means "cool" and :::poof::: means "I'm gone".
Leetspeak is a relatively new type of symbolic jargon in which you replace regular letters with other keyboard characters to form words (for example, backward and forward slashes create this shape "/\/\" to stand for the letter M); numbers and symbols often replace the letters they resemble (for example the term "leetspeak" is written as "!337$p34k"); letters can be substituted for other letters that might sound alike (for example "ph" is transposed with "f" so "phear" is used instead of "fear"); and common typing errors such as "teh" instead of "the" are left uncorrected.
The result is a dynamic written language that eludes conformity or consistency. In fact, the culture of online jargon encourages new forms of expression and users will often award each other's individual creativity.
For the largest list of Internet acronyms and text message jargon, click on "more info" below! Be sure to download the NetLingo iPhone app "The List: Text & Chat Acronyms" by visiting the link below ;-)