SMS Dictionary of Abbreviations and Smileys

OMG! Did you know that all the smileys and more or less revealing abbreviations are not only part of the youth culture, but have long influenced business communication via SMS in many ways? Read more here on the blog 4u 😉

Are they all just lazy about writing or is there more to it?

The first short messages were accompanied by the first abbreviations. Since the typical SMS is limited to 160 characters standard coding, people helped themselves with clear short variants of more frequently used expressions. In particular, numerous manners were adopted from English, such as the short thx, cu, bb or lol.

A short time later, smileys were implemented using keyboard input in order to convey an emotional contribution to the written text. This can be an annoyed -.- or an amused accentuation^^.

In fact, it’s not just the money saver that’s behind all this, but a dynamic youth culture that has stylized its language and expression in online games, on Internet platforms, in live chats, by messenger and, of course, by SMS. It has to be short and crisp, without much talk. YOLO is the new uncomplicated.

The fact that some of the generation not only writes this way, but actually speaks that way, has led to misunderstandings across various levels. Companies felt increasingly compelled to decipher the sometimes somewhat cumbersome subtext in order to make their customer communication more fluent again.

Today apps send push notifications with all kinds of emojis, emails are adorned with gifs and other animated images and yes, B2B and B2C communication is now up-to-date as well.

Business Smileys

Picture based on illustration by Viktoria_Yams via

Dialects, regional and social differences

It seems impossible to know all abbreviations and symbols. In addition, there are enormous differences worldwide, not only because of various international languages. Different countries, different customs – this also applies to Emojis.

On the other side of the world, many messages are interpreted quite differently from ours. One would think that everyone smiles in the same language. If there were not a perceived 10 smileys to express a smile or a kiss – but it could also be whistling to oneself. Or the legendary pile of poo emoji is actually a sign of happiness in Japan.

After all, most emojis come from Japan, where it is already difficult for us to interpret the socially relevant forms of facial expressions and gestures correctly on a living human being.

So how can companies communicate clearly with each other and with their customers using abbreviations and symbols?

The best-known abbreviations in the German-speaking world

As absurd as the resolution of some abbreviations may be at the end of the day, once you know them they make sense. Anyone who has built up a basis of trust with their employees, business partners and customers can therefore use abbreviations with almost no worries, for example to make optimum use of the number of SMS characters:

Abbreviation English German
4u for you für dich
4e forever immer, auf ewig
asap as soon as possible so schnell wie möglich
bb bye bye bis bald
cu see you bis bald / wir sehen uns
g grin grinsen
gn8 good night Gute Nacht
grats / gz congratulation Gratulation
lol laughing out loud lautes Lachen
np no problem Gern geschehen
omg oh my god Oh mein Gott!
sry sorry Entschuldigung
thy / thx / tx thank you / thanks Danke
wb welcome back Willkommen zurück
yolo you only live once du lebst nur einmal
xxx three kisses Drei Küsse

This is, of course, only a small selection of common abbreviations, but should be familiar to most people. In addition, there are many less well known abbreviations. Much more popular are the smileys…

The most famous smileys

Before emojis visualized our emotional language, smilyes were often used in text form and even today the quickly typed symbols are still very welcome. This could be because the search for the right emojis can take some time, while the fingers have already completed the two-three movements. Here is a small selection:



Characters Meaning
^^or ^.^ grin, amused
>.< D’oh! (quote by Homer S.)
-.- annoyed
:$ ill
:- ) or : ) laugh, happy
:- ( or : ( sad, disappointed
:- / sceptical
:’- ( cry
:’- cry for joy
:- | indifferent
:-0 amazed, screaming, surprised
:- x silent, quiet
:-p stick out tongue
:-* kiss
;- ) wink
:- P stick out tongue
:- D laugh out loud (lol)
XD laughing even more (rofl)
:-> cynical
<:-) know-it-all
B-) sun glasses, cool
P-) the pirate
0:-) the angel
:v Pacman

The most famous signs and symbols

Parallel to the smileys, countless people seem to have thought about how certain symbols can be clearly represented in sign language or in an SMS. While on the computer ALT codes are a popular method to refine the text with various symbols, such as ♥ or ☺, SMS writers use standardized Unicode characters, which cannot be transferred to all mobile networks, but at least to many:


Character Meaning
@->–>– rose, flower
<3 heart on side
3:-o cow
(^^^) shark
(00) butt
(y) thumbs up / yes
(n) thumbs down / no
[:-] robot

What significance do smileys, symbols and emojis have for B2B and B2C?

For a long time such “disfigurement” of conventional language was considered inappropriate for everything in the business sector, if not an absolute no-go. Management pays strict attention to how employees communicate with the outside world and thus represent the company. In addition to a certain code of conduct, text modules and layout specifications, the executive floor also likes to determine the confidentiality of a B2B or B2C communication.

However, more and more entrepreneurs are realising that this is not always sensible. On the contrary, business relationships that are too distant often tend to appear rejective rather than serious. And so some partners or customers sometimes withdraw and perhaps find a contact person in the competition who they can trust, not to mention long-term loyalty.

Small loosening-up of the text form, emotional interjections or accentuations can thus definitely promote customer loyalty. And you don’t have to become chintzy or appear insane. But particularly in conflict situations that are to be solved via SMS or email, the undertone that would result from a personal conversation is simply missing.

How serious is the situation really? Is the deadline just a joke? Was the criticism taken the wrong way? With a 🙂 or a 🙁 you can simply give emphasis to the corresponding phrases. You can hardly believe how often these simple gestures break the ice. Often the communication partner already uses symbols after 2-3 answers and one talks about difficult topics much more relaxed. After all, on the other end there is only a person.

Best Regards
Your sms77 team

Header picture by atomicstudio via

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