I have recently seen a lot of post containing tl;dr and I have not until recently understood its meaning. The phrase tl;dr supposedly means "too long; didn't read". If I am mistaken its meaning then tell me and I can delete the post:

Other possible meanings:

Perhaps it means "too late; don't read"(telling people that it is a bad post), "the language; didn't recognize"(as a problem with translating), or "too leave; don't run"(telling someone they are about to log off and they won't be replying for a while). Someone told me that the phrase could mean this, but they were laughing so I don't know.

But if I am not mistaken then that brings me to my next points:

  1. Is it a good idea to publicize to people that you didn't read the whole post or part of it, because it was to long? Doesn't that ruin the integrity of the site, saying that the users are slovenly so they don't even read what they copy and paste?

  2. And should that phrase be shunned?

  3. Also, should post containing that be down-voted or flagged? As they are helping, but they are also being counterproductive?

  4. Or should this phrase just be edited out, by edits?

What should be done about this phrase and its usage?


I am not trying to insult people that do this, and I am not insulting people that have reading disabilities or any other disabilities that stop them from being able to read very good or read a lot(as I myself suffer from a slight reading disability), so no insult meant. And I am not calling anyone slovenly, I am just saying that people might think that these things reflect badly on the site.

  • 1
    TL;DR: when 'summary' is tl;dr.
    – SQB
    Jul 26, 2014 at 7:02

4 Answers 4


Quoting from the Wikitionary entry for TL;DR, which I think explains it nicely:

TL;DR. too long; didn’t read. Used to indicate that one did not read a (long) text, or to mark a short summary of an overly long text.

Generally, when I’ve seen TL;DR used on SFF.se, it’s usually expressing the second sentiment. What it means is: “if my answer is too long for you to read, then here’s a one-sentence version”. It usually calls out the key point or idea.

Here’s an example of a common pattern:

Q: Who are Ron and Hermione?

A: [supporting quotes and evidence]

TL;DR: Harry’s best friends.

It’s not the author saying that they didn’t read something; instead they’re highlighting a summary for other readers.

  • 1
    but it doesn't appear that way to new users right? If we say you are right, then no edit or downvoting is neccesary.
    – Pobrecita
    Jul 25, 2014 at 23:34

There are two general uses for tl;dr.

I only one case it does, in fact, mean "too long; didn't read". When used to truly indicate that someone else's post is too long, it is rude, and generally unnecessary.

However, there is another, less obvious (but hopefully more common) use.

Tl;dr is also used to indicate that at summary is being provided, for those who don't want to read a lengthy post.

I sometimes start answers with a "tl;dr version", summarizing the answer in a paragraph or two before beginning a longer, more detailed, explanation.

As for what to do when you see this...

If you see someone using it in the first sense, while arguing with, or responding to, someone else's post, it may be worth flagging.

In the second sense, though, I'd suggest just interpreting it as "here's a brief summary", and leave it as-is.

  • 2
    Although the first usage may be where TL;DR originated, the only way I've seen it used is in your second sense - you put a TL;DR at the start or end to say say "my post is reaaaallllllllyyyyyyyy long, here's a summary." Jul 26, 2014 at 5:30
  • I've definitely seen it used in the first sense; but yes, that usage is almost non existent now.
    – Mr Lister
    Jul 26, 2014 at 9:49
  • @Ward For some background, there's an intermediate usage that caused the switch: When someone posted a long response on a forum, one of the next few posters would quote the whole thing, use "tl;dr", and put their own summary. It didn't take long for others to start preempting these people with their own "tl;dr" section
    – Izkata
    Aug 3, 2014 at 20:34

I, myself have used the phrase "tl;dr" in my answers. I've used it exactly in the second scenario that Beofett outlined.

Here is a perfect example of when I've used it, and why:

The question How are Wolverine's claws still in his body? simply asked why Wolverine's claws don't eject or break off from his body.

My TL;DR portion of the answer explains quite simply

The claws are a part of his natural physiology. They're housed within his bones and likely connected to him/controlled by ligaments and tendons, and never "eject".

Two sentences; 163 characters; Short and straight to the point. If that's all you read, you would have an answer - maybe not a great answer, but an answer.

But I don't like having not-great answers. I went on with another 4701 characters, including 4 images and a video explaining in great detail how Wolverine's supposed anatomy has changed over the years and across canons. This helps paint a much broader picture and really explain what's going on. That's what makes it a great answer (in my opinion). All of this stuff is really extra. You don't need it, but it's very helpful. It's the perfect place to offer a tl;dr version of the answer, so I did.

So what should be done about users who use them? So long as we're doing them for reasons such as this, nothing. We're trying to offer options to readers.

Now, if someone is legitimately using tl;dr in a mocking/sarcastic tone, it would depend on the situation. If it is followed by a reasonable answer, I would comment prompting the user to check and edit their tone. In some cases, I might opt to just edit out myself. If the answer consists primarily of "tl;dr" and/or has other derogatory comments, a flag might be warranted for abuse.


To explain what Beofett stated in a shorter way: "TL;DR" when used in a post (as opposed to a comment) is a less pretentious way of saying what "Executive Summary" heading would say in a business document.

  • 2
    then why not just say "Executive summary", what's wrong about that.
    – Pobrecita
    Aug 2, 2014 at 20:44
  • @iliveunderawesomerock - It's 15 characters longer; It sounds pretentious when the intended audience is NOT executives; and the intended audience may in fact be just as or more familiar with "TL;DR" than "Executive Summary" expression. Aug 2, 2014 at 21:22
  • 1
    @Well I wasn't familiar with it. And executive summary sounds really smart, and I think we all know what that means. I 1+ for the fact that you mentioned a alternative to using TL;DR. I think that executive summary is a novel idea and should be used instead. In my opinion TL;DR is pretentious, but that's just me.
    – Pobrecita
    Aug 2, 2014 at 22:17
  • @Pobrecita Because this isn't a business document, and most of us are not executives. On the other hand, we all know what tl;dr means, and now you do too! When encountering a term you don't recognise, you can simply look it up, or ask about it as you have done here. We don't need to ban the term. Jan 19, 2019 at 18:20

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