Three Common Forum Misunderstandings – TLDR, FTFY, WTF

   Posted April 3, 2012 by David Kirk in reddit

Users of Reddit, 4chan, and other such forums have a language and diction that is unique to that subculture. If you are a newbie trying to figure out the lingo, this primer can help you get started.

Just like people incorrectly learn lyrics to popular songs, many forum users do not understand what some frequently used abbreviations (or acronyms to be perfectly correct) actually mean. Here is a list of my favorites. Feel free to add additional ones in the comments.

TL;DR – Too long; didn’t read.

This commonly used abbreviation is frequently placed at the end after an exceptionally long text. After the TL;DR is an extremely concise summary of the referenced article.

FTFY – Fixed this for you.

This term is used when a user quotes another user, but then re-edits the original quote to make changes. Typically this is used to change the quote in an humorous fashion, However, corrections to make the quote factually correct or to express a different opinion are common as well. In general FTFY is used as a marker to say “I quoted you but changed something within your quote.”

As picture memes have exploded in popularity, this term is also frequently used when somebody edits the meme of somebody else. Here are two people arguing about Diablo 3 in a gaming forum:

Debating Diablo 3.


All of these terms have different meanings; however, they are often used interchangeably as well. What the (expletive) is often used to reference something incredibly bizarre. Not Safe for Work is a tag to mark sexually explicit pictures or text. Not Safe for Life is a warning that gore or death is represented.

Although those are probably the most common uses, in reality, these tags and the material they reference often overlaps.


About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
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The Conversation

Follow the reactions below and share your own thoughts.

  • Vic

    “What the (expletive) is often used to reference something incredibly bizarre.” FTFY(x2)

    • David Kirk

      Thanks, Vic! I deserved every bit of that…

  • M3NTA7

    Vic FTW! that’s really funny.

  • Brian

    WGARA about WTF

  • Cars Australia

    Sometimes every profession needs some sort of entertainment!. I am glad I found your blog.

  • Chris

    NSFL = Not Safe For Looking


      Not Safe For Lunch.

  • Josh

    Technically, “acronym” is not perfectly correct as none of these abbreviations are shortened in such a way that they flow from the mouth as one word. When an abbreviation is only pronounced as each letter being its own syllable (Double-U–Tee–Eff) it is known as an alphabetization.

    • Sangram

      Great to know. Coincidentally, yesterday I had skipped an article on an English/grammar website on the difference between abbreviation and acronym but here it was waiting for my learning.

      • This comment is rather redundant but because one person responded incorrectly I am commenting to break the tie.

        “abbreviations (or acronyms to be perfectly correct)”

        This is far from perfect and Josh’s correction to you was incorrect. 🙂


        Abbreviation is making a word (or even a series of words) short by using fewer letters of that word. Example: etcetera (or Et Cetera for Latin perfection) is abbreviated to “etc”.

        Initialism is taking the first letter of words and expressing this as the letters explicitly. Example: Federal Bureau (of) Investigation becomes F-B-I. (“of” is a preposition and therefore is ignored)

        Acronym is taking the first letter of words and expressing them a new word. Example: SCUBA which means Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.


        So these are all Initialisms.

        For these to be acronyms, for example FTFY would be expressed as something like “footfee”, “fatfee”, etc.


        Josh said that it is an “alphabetization” and that is not even remotely accurate. Alphabetization is indeed a word but it applies to putting items in alphabetical order. So the only way this would be Alphabetization is if you expressed the initialisms as “FTFY, NSFL, NSFW, ‘TL;DR’, WTF”.

        Grammar Lesson = Complete

        Have a nice day.

  • JDon

    FWIW, I understand NSFL to mean Not Safe For Lunch(time).

    Also, Josh hit another of my pet peeves with the whole “that’s not an acronym”. He managed to blow it himself though. These are initialisms, not alphebitizations…

  • TheOxymoron

    Mfw= my face when

  • Anonymouse!

    “abbreviations (or acronyms to be perfectly correct)”

    These are initialisms, not acronyms (to be perfectly correct).