I realize that most of the regulars on this site (including me) are quite savvy in technical terms, in-universe lingo, and Internet-speak. But not everyone who looks for answers on this site may be.

Recently, I started seeing an abbreviation used on this site that I had not seen before; one that I could not deduce the meaning of. I had to look it up. It was TL;DR. It does seem like it's being used more and more in answers on this site, but in my opinion it seems sloppy to use memes like this. After all, users are flamed for using netchat or l33t speak when composing questions or answers instead of regular English. (IMHO) ;) The same thing could be accomplished by simply writing instead:

Short Answer: Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus

Long Answer: [...]

In that same vein, but maybe to a lesser degree, should we try to limit the use of universe abbreviations (e.g. ST:TWOK, ROTJ) unless first defined within the question or answer? It seems like it would improve search engine results, and minimize confusion of folks who don't know all the jargon.

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    TL;DR is bad form for an answer, but I think is acceptable in a comment.
    – user1027
    May 4, 2012 at 21:09
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    In an otherwise well-structured, grammatically clean, correct answer, seeing TL;DR doesn't bother me in the slightest. Nor does IMO, YMMV, ETA, or IIRC. Abbreviations, not memes, to me, are different than memes or l337 speak. A meme would be adding "Oh, and is ___ a timelord?" to every question. An abbreviation (technically an acronym, I suppose) is a series of letters that stands for a group of words. I sometimes have to look up words I see on the site; it doesn't mean those words should be banned. May 4, 2012 at 21:35
  • @Slytherincess - My point is that I, a 20+ Internet veteran, did not know what the heck TL;DR was supposed to mean. It's not very intuitive to read it ("Too long, didn't read") since it doesn't make sense in the flow of a sentence, whereas "In my opinion" does make sense. May 4, 2012 at 21:39
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    @NorbyTheGeek - Okay, but you looked it up and figured it out and now you know what it means. Last night I had to look up "gravitational singularity" in reference to a Star Trek question. I looked it up and learned what it was. I personally don't expect others to anticipate what I don't know. I anticipate that I will use my Google-Fu to learn as I go. :) May 4, 2012 at 22:37
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    Let's just ban "tl;dr" per se, because it really means "I'm not going to take the time to write this properly." If your answer is that long, structure it properly, with an introduction and well-defined topic sentences.
    – user1030
    May 4, 2012 at 22:39
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    @NorbyTheGeek - that's because "TL;DR" is not internet jargon, it's business jargon. I first learned it from one of MBA/CFA managers at work. Serious business people have a lot less tolerance to non-executively-summarised long running ramblings than Internet posters at large :) May 6, 2012 at 12:32
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    @JoeWreschnig - while TL;DR may sometimes be abused that way, more likely than not (that I've seen here) it's perfectly propely used - an executive summary (especially when the question, on a high level amounts to "yes/no"), followed by in-detail discussion and nuances and examples. That's how most proper written documents are and should be structured. It should not be used as an excuse for pointlessly bloviating, but it's a good communications style in general. May 6, 2012 at 12:34
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    @JoeWreschnig Leading a long, two page essay of an answer off with "Short Version:" or "TL;DR Version:" would be OK I think. Not everyone reads at the same speed and not everyone has a lot of time to spend in one sitting on reading answers (or questions for that matter). However, if an answer can be neatly contained in one to two paragraphs then it wouldn't be merited.
    – Xantec
    May 7, 2012 at 15:11
  • I dislike acronyms because they interrupt the flow of reading a question or answer if the reader has to stop and figure out/look up what it stands for. Series specific acronyms assume a certain level of familiarity with that series and exclude (or, at the very least, impose barriers against) those that don't meet it, which just seems counter to the purpose of this site. If you only use an acronym once, you're just being lazy. If you're using it repeatedly, you should spell it out in its entirety first: "A Game of Thrones (GoT)" rather than just launching into using "GoT", for example. May 17, 2012 at 9:56

2 Answers 2


Yes, we should encourage plain English. The goal of posts is to be read, hence they must be comprehensible.

Users should not be flamed for using netchat or l33t speak. They should be politely requested to write proper English.

If you see substandard English anywhere or posts that are difficult to understand, edit them.

The use of acronyms or memes is not proscribed. They should be avoided when they hinder comprehension, but it's ok to use abbreviations if you define them, for example (sometimes a Wikipedia link is enough of a definition).

We have a list of common abbreviations.

  • I used the term "flamed" very loosely. I do usually see polite comments in response to such posts. May 4, 2012 at 21:19

Yes, please use plain english.

If I'm making a statement, the presumption is I want people to read it. If I don't make the effort it as clear as possible and as easy to read as possible, then why should I expect others to put the effort to read my post? If I don't care that much about communicating that point, why should they care?

  • Conversely, if somebody doesn't bother reading the text, you wrote, investing effort and time, why should you bother to provide them with an oversimplified version (if that version would contain all information, you wouldn't have bothered with the long version in the first place)?
    – bitmask
    May 4, 2012 at 23:05
  • @bitmask: You don't know if they'll read it or not. All you can do, as with most things, is put your best effort out there and see what kind of response you get.
    – Tango
    May 4, 2012 at 23:26
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    @bitmask -- I really do have the capability of writing long answers, because that's how I like to write. I have caught my fair share of flack, veiled comments, and mocking for this (which, whatever!), so I will sometimes do a TL;DR to try and nip that in the bud. I can try and ward off catching flack from people who want a two sentence answer, and if others want to read the full text, they can. So I do think there is room for both. :) May 4, 2012 at 23:35
  • @bitmask - because people may not be interested in nitty gritty derivation of HOW you arrived at an answer. If I ask "would removing Earth form Solar system destroy it" on Physics.SE, I want to know the high points of the answer ("no"), and will likely not read many details describing actual calculations. But I would NOT accept an answer without calculations. May 6, 2012 at 12:55
  • @DVK: Isn't that a bit hypocritical?
    – bitmask
    May 6, 2012 at 13:02
  • @bitmask - no, it's realistic. I wouldn't be qualified to judge the derivations (haven't done grad level physics since I was 17, and that was a long time ago), so there's no point of my reading them - I will judge by votes on the answer. But an answer with just yes/no for a question like that is not useful at all. May 6, 2012 at 14:07
  • @DVK: But on SF&F calculations are not included as part of the research and if the intent of SE is to make the Internet a better place, then providing a full background of what sources were used is more likely to help people in the future, since it gives them more sources to use for any research they're doing.
    – Tango
    May 6, 2012 at 16:05
  • @TangoOversway - Sorry, I'm not getting which part of my comment you are disagreeing with? SF&F calculations equivalent is full citations (for example, look at any random Slytherincess post :) May 6, 2012 at 16:32
  • @DVK: And I think full citations are quite useful, but often so is the reasoning process, since that often includes what didn't work.
    – Tango
    May 6, 2012 at 22:22
  • @TangoOversway - ack. May 7, 2012 at 0:42
  • For myself, I will prefer a long answer to a short one 90% of the time. But for someone with limited time, or on a smart phone Googling a question and needing a quick answer, providing a short one or two sentence summary to lead off a long answer with is courtesy. Example: your answer to my The Changeling/TMP question was filled with good information most people wouldn't know. But it could've been summarized with your comment. Prefacing a summary with "TL;DR" lets the reader know where the summary starts and stops, and when the analysis begins.
    – Xantec
    May 7, 2012 at 15:18
  • @Xantec: One thing we just brought up in chat is how you can spend time doing research to post a good answer and you'll get a few votes, but a short answer with no research (like mine on "the Enterprise replicas in the observation room on the 01-D" can get am amazing number of upvotes in a short time. As Lafe Long would say, "TANJ!" (And I'm not complaining about those upvotes, just that answers that take work should get more!)
    – Tango
    May 7, 2012 at 15:33
  • @TangoOversway Providing that summary for answers that take 15 minutes to read may spur more upvotes, as lazy (time constrained) people can read that and know whether the answer is good or not. Then you get the best of both worlds?
    – Xantec
    May 7, 2012 at 15:37
  • I've seen a few where I suspect it's made a difference, but others where it doesn't seem to. (Of course I can't be sure.) Last night I was watching a re-enactment of Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, which is a good and eloquent speech and I was thinking, "If he said that today, people would just yawn, say TL;DR and ignore most of it."
    – Tango
    May 7, 2012 at 15:39

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