I have come across many posts lately containing abbreviations such as sth, sb/sbd, pls, ur, etc. At first I had no idea what these abbreviations meant (except for pls). I even posted a comment on the question asking about the same. But it was over a day, and no one had responded. Today I discovered another such post containing such abbreviations. A reputed user even pointed out that these are not correct English and should be avoided. I know he/she is a beginner, but should we take it on ourselves to correct them instantly? I even searched using these keywords, and got many results (most of them) which were left unedited.

On top of that, there are people who take their precious time in writing and linking their abbreviations in their posts, but can't write it in the context. I mean how very painful!

Hence my question, should we take a step and edit such posts, because like me there are many users out there who are not familiar with the messaging language that people use nowadays? I mean we are an English platform after all, we should encourage proper English habits and usage, rather than discouraging it.

This may appear verbose. Read only if you want to know what I think of the suggested posts/links.

Edited Part: Clarification of "why my question is different from the one's mentioned in the comments?"., although no one deemed of my question being a duplicate. I just want to clarify the observations. Thank you all for your references and suggestions.

  1. When should I correct an ELL's grammar? I have read this post even before I asked my question here. It certainly highlights the point that we should not edit every possible grammar mistake in the original poster's question, because fellow users may misinterpret their fluency level. I totally agree. I, for one, never edit everything in the sentence or example they are including, but definitely edit the rest of the question part which should be unambiguous to every reader who reads it in future.

  2. Is it really pointless to edit questions to use correct English on ELL? This post gave me an idea that we should edit not only for formatting but for actual grammar corrections also, if there are any. While I think both of them are essential, our focus should be primarily on more correct Grammar.

  3. What's our editing policy? This post in specific has proved very helpful for me. I got to know that if a post is an answer, no extra lines should be added or edited (other than grammatical or spelling errors) unless mentioned by the author in the comment section; or very best ask the author himself/herself to add those lines in their answer. I myself have never edited an answer till now. And henceforth I will keep this in mind.

  4. When should a question be edited in these situations? Similar observations to that of the 1. But I would defy the saying that we should not edit solely for formatting purposes, because sometimes the questions are just too ugly to read and speedily becomes incomprehensible.

  5. Informality, modern messaging, and editing This question is quite difficult to understand in the first go (especially for a non-native speaker like me). This post is, I would say, similar to mine. But it covers more than one concept in a single question. Mine is king of self-centered (or so I feel). The edit comments though are similar to what every other person suggested.

  6. How much editing is too much editing? I want to highlight a point from one of the answers to this question.

It's generally considered poor etiquette to play the staunch editor who "fixes" every post with nothing but minor pedantic changes. But if you can improve the post substantively, you should; it can only help the site.

So according to him, we shouldn't edit minor changes! But then again, I do not understand, why are we hesitating to edit when SE itself defines the ground level rules for editing posts. Take a look at the following picture to know what I am talking about: Edit rules on ELL

I mean it is clearly stated here what should be done while someone is editing. Then why so much confusion and hesitation?

Moving on to the last suggested post/link, We need to be more careful with suggested edits from low-rep users. I will include two lines which particularly caught my attention.

"Substantial" is not really a good litmus, because more often than not it could be subjective. A contribution in the right direction is a contribution, regardless of its character count.

As pointed out here by Eddie Kal, we shouldn't discourage newcomers by simply rejecting their (correct) suggested edits, albeit they being minor. Because again, we are an English community. I know some people may disagree and disregard this post, but it should be our top-most priority to help people out with their English knowledge with whatever we can and keep this site as clean as possible.

Hence my question still stands, because looking at all the answers above by different people on different questions, I am still pretty confused, although I think we should edit them. The reason being, if the questioner is actually using the word like sth or sbd or any other abbreviations, then they must surely know what the abbreviations stand for! Then it does not actually affect a responder/answerer to think that the fluency of the questioner is high, at the same time maintaining a clean etiquette.

  • 1
    Yes, absolutely.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 17:07
  • By the way I notice you've been very active on ELL for a while and made some valuable contributions to the main site and meta with helpful edits and thought-provoking discussions. I encourage you to join the ELL main chat room. Some discussions about reviews, editing, and community building are more effectively carried out there.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 17:50
  • Thank you so much @EddieKal for the information. I was unaware about such a thing. I will definitely visit and participate there. Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 18:12
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    Also related: We need to be more careful with suggested edits from low-rep users
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 21:44
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    One reason may be that users of the site with enough interest to edit do understand the abbreviations and unjustifiably assume that everyone else does. I did leave a comment for someone who used EUA instead of USA which the OP then edited but otherwise I do not even notice the sort of abbreviation you mention.
    – mdewey
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 10:37
  • @mdewey Might be you don't. No problem. Abbreviations of proper nouns are quite different from such messaging words. USA is world-wide recognized as, well USA. Similar for NYC, etc. I might even add full forms to those just to avoid confusion, but anyways those are quite acceptable. But these are different issues. Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 19:42
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    Yes, I was just suggesting why nobody edits them. I personally would never use them in writing for the reasons you give but many people do.
    – mdewey
    Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 10:44
  • FWIW, I draw a distinction between textisms like ur or idk and more-established abbreviations like sth and sb, which are used by Oxford, Cambridge, and Collins, and which I always took to be fairly standard. I will always change the former, the latter only if I am already editing the post for other reasons.
    – choster
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 15:07
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    @choster I don't even know the full form of FWIW. And I do agree some dictionaries do use it, but the dictionaries I referred in my childhood or those I do now, rarely contain abbreviations or might be I have simply not encountered them yet. But for greater good, we should use the full form. Because there are naive people like me in this world. (Saddest part, I am seventeen, and not familiar with most (if not all) internet slangs or text messaging formats.) Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 19:30
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    @choster - Maybe it's just my personal (dis)taste for those two abbreviations, but I've never encountered an ELL question that was all the better because of its use of sb or sth in its title or body. I think Jon Hanna's answer on ELU is a good one. Just because these are standard doesn't mean an edit wouldn't constitute an improvement.
    – J.R. Mod
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 22:04
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    @choster What is an "established" abbreviation for some is a complete mystery to others. ur is possibly you are, idk = ?? , sth = something, but I had to waste time searching to find this, sb = ??. I see no reason why I should have to use a dictionary or Google just to be able to understand a question or comment. ELL and ELU are sites abut English not texteese and the questions should be written in English to the best of the OP's ability. If the question is incomprehensible due to abbreviations then I'd be inclined to vote to close it rather than waste time editing it. Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


Yes, please. One of the reasons to edit posts is to

clarify meaning without changing it

Like you, many users are not aware of the meaning of these abbreviations. They can be useful in text messages and tweets, which have a low character limit; on Stack Exchange, the limit is 30,000 characters, so there's no reason at all not to fully write out those abbreviations.

enter image description here

See also various discussions on Meta Stack Exchange, e.g. Texting abbreviations in answers and questions. Though I agree that as the English Language Learners community we should encourage proper English even more than other Stack Exchange sites.

  • Thank you so much for the link. I had not checked the Meta site regarding related posts. But even there it is mentioned that the usage is discouraged, then how come no one ever edited posts on ELL site? I am not blaming you, just talking in general. Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 18:35
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    IDK ... er ... I mean I don't know. Perhaps users are too busy writing answers to edit posts? Your question is on its way to become a Hot Meta question, and will probably be seen by quite a few users. I hope it will get the message across ...
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 18:42
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    It was said that fixing mistakes (not saying I agreed with it) would fool users into thinking the author's knowledge of English was higher than it actually was. The message I got was to preserve the identity and the OP's level of fluency.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 21:07

Another approach is to leave a comment explaining to the OP that the abbreviation needs spelling out and ask them to edit it. This is particularly helpful if the abbreviation is ambiguous which they may not realise. This also seems helpful if they have mis--used a word as then they can see why they need to edit the question rather than finding out from an edit by another hand. I know that the edit process asks for an explanation of the edit but will new users know where to look for it?

  • Agreed to some extent. However I have seen many users not reading or might be ignoring our comments altogether. They never edit their posts to make them correct. Hence I believe we should do it, if not for benefiting him/her, but making it more readable and understandable for other users as well. Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 19:25

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