I am starting to see this more often then I think we should: Instant Message language and computer geek jargon that frankly the common person will just not get.

Not only that problem, but it is just lazy on the poster's part and cheapens the experts feel we are going for, in my opinion. tl;dr. does not belong in any answer. If you didn't want to read the original posing that is fine and it's fine to make an answer, too, but why start it with jargon that looks like a typing error? Just type out a sentence at the top or bottom, or don't do anything at all. Let the votes and comments tell you if you lost the gamble and made a cruddy answer.

Then we have other oddities like using actual code syntax to say something is or is not the same thing as another thing. Just type out the words. How many more word are there really?

Then further, we are developing our own jargon, unique to this site and more generally the Stack Exchange Network. C.SE to refer to this site, for example. This gets really confusing because you can't even Google search what it means. That kind of jargon is ok in chat, but it likely confuses new users and the casual visitors and might lead to nonsensical responses.

Now I freely admit that I that used some of these before myself, but, hey, I'm only human, and now I've decided to make a conscious effort not to do it.

What does the community think?

Here's what the above might have looked like:

So apparently SNAFU: IM and geek speak / net speak everywhere. That's just terror for noobs.

More than that its just Patrick Swayze, imo. TL;DR is a bit like saying idc about the deets in the OP. It's usually used in a rude way. You didn't want to read, fine. Make a horror show answer anyway, but wo the geek speak.

Then we say code syntax. [item A != item B] != [item A and item B are not the same thing], although I admit the first is shorter plus you get the pow of the "!". Means null to non coders.

Further, our own jargon on C.SE and SE in general. Can't even google that. This will just lead to asdf responses and keep VTC's high.

So I've done this, too. Pebkac error. lol. But, I'm going to stop, sysadmin and mods hold me to it.

This jargon response was just for fun and to make a point that it hardly sounds expert/professional.


When I first noticed "tl;dr" on this site I confess that I did not know what it was. I honestly thought it was a typing error. But I convinced my self that typing errors do not end up on lines by themselves so I googled it.

The convention in most forums for "TL;DR" is to use it as a snide reply on particularly long posts. It's kind of like saying "I didn't feel like reading your post but here is a response anyway." Or more rudely "A post this long from you is not worth reading."

On Christianity.SE the convention seems to always be a synonym for "summary" or "abstract". That is fine I suppose, but then why not just use "summary" or "abstract" or "short answer" and "long answer"? Generally, most of us here are geeky types and find it fun to do odd things like use weird jargon, but I think using "tl;dr" with either convention on this site either inappropriate or unnecessary because other real words exist.

So I still stand by my original post that we should not use this kind of jargon; and for the most part, most users never do.

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    lolz on the translation :) Apr 3, 2013 at 11:04
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  • For what it's worth, I always say Christianity SE, with no dot. I don't know why other people do use a dot: it just seems confusing.
    – TRiG
    Apr 3, 2013 at 20:11
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    tl;dr This originated (not here) as a comment on other people's posts: "That was too long; I didn't read it." However, it is now sometimes used (and it is this usage which is prevalent here) as a way of staving off such a reaction: "If you find the overall post too long, here's an abbreviated version." I'd prefer the less jargony words abstract (if used at the beginning of a post) or summary (if used at the end).
    – TRiG
    Apr 3, 2013 at 20:14
  • @TRiG Yes, it is apparently used differently on this site. But that is no reason to still use it. Summary, abstract, long answer, short answer, and the rest are much more preferable. I have used the latter when making very long answers.
    – user3961
    Apr 3, 2013 at 21:21

2 Answers 2


I think you chose a bad example to pick on. The issue here is not the individual jargon, but the person using it. tl;drR is perfectly legitimate piece of jargon that can serve a constructive purpose. If I sound like I'm on the defensive, it might be because I've employed it as a tool to make my sometimes long answers serve a wider audience:

However I am by no means the only person here using it:

These are hardly lazy or non expert answers. In fact I would argue thatmany of the best answers on this site employ tl;dr. Of course it is possible to do the same thing without Jargon as evidenced in a number of Jon Ericson's answers:

Of course it must be used correctly. Using jargon like tl;dr in the manner you just did in your meta post is simply wrong. It is ungrammatical and doesn't serve the purpose it the jargon is intended to serve. A lazy answer might employ jargon, but in a messy way that obscures rather than clarifies what is being said. We do not want to encourage these usages.

Local jargon is should be evaluated very locally. For example if I am commenting to a brand new user, I will spell out "Christianity.SE" or even "Christianity Stack Exchange". However if I am commenting to a high rep user who has been around a while, I consider the abbreviation "C.SE" is perfectly acceptable. I would err on the side of spelling things out to avoid confusion for other readers, but lets face it: SE does have a lot of local parlance that you just have to get used to.

As for the related issue, I thoroughly agree that "text speak" is inappropriate. Not capitalizing, using unnecessary acronyms, leaving out vowels, intentionally spelling things wrong and all sorts of other shortcuts in that genre all come across as low quality. Experts can typically articulate ideas more effectively without such props.

TL;DR Use of "IM speak" that mutilates English grammar and shortcuts more articulate communication is not helpful in this setting and should be avoided. On the other hand some jargon actually serves a concrete purpose and has a place in both technical and academic circles and we shouldn't shy away from it.

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    How does tl;dr improve over summary? I didn't use either in christianity.stackexchange.com/a/9970/214, and I think the answer is the better for it.
    – TRiG
    Apr 3, 2013 at 10:06
  • @TRiG: It may not. In reviewing usage on our site, I think Jon Ericon's answer formatting is exemplary for it's clarity and usefulness. However I think the answers above are better off for having included a tl;dr rather than not. The usage was not lazy, it was an improvement to the overall post. Perhaps a further improvement would have been to format the entire thing differently and have a clearly formatted summary section, but that wasn't the point of this question. The question was is using tl;dr inherently lazy and detrimental. My answer is "no, it can be used constructively."
    – Caleb
    Apr 3, 2013 at 10:10
  • I'm sorry about my confusion. I thought a few people were saying with it "I didn't read your post, but here's an answer." That is the traditional usage 1 2 3. I can't find any examples doing that. However, I'm with @TRiG. Summary is more correct for this site. It seems you are attempting to reappropriate TL;DR. A responder is supposed to reply to the TL;DR or the whole thing. Since this is not a discussion forum it is out of place.
    – user3961
    Apr 3, 2013 at 16:58
  • What about the code syntax? I think it is fine on SO but casual users here are likely not programmers.
    – user3961
    Apr 3, 2013 at 17:20
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    yeah, I think Jon's methods are superior to tl;dr especially abstract which, as far as I can tell means tl;dr
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Apr 3, 2013 at 19:03

Summary doesn't mean the same thing, I don't think. While summaries do repeat things, they do so more like the final paragraph, wrapping everything up. They aren't meant to be read by themselves.

"Abstract" is closer, but I'm not sure everyone knows that meaning of the term. (I'd expect more people know what "tl;dr" means, actually.) Plus the abstract usually comes first, while "tl;dr" usually comes at the end.

It may not be all that formal, but I'd say using a preface of "Quick version:" or "Short answer:" or similar is closer to the intent of a "tl;dr" section. It uses words more people know, and implies that, if you don't have time, you can just read that section.

"Summary" would I guess work in more formal contexts, but I'd say answers here are rarely that formal. We usually respond at the same level as the person asking the question, and most question are somewhat informal.

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