What is TL;DR (too long; didn't read)?
TL;DR is an abbreviation for "too long; didn't read." It often appears in social media posts, online articles, blog posts, text messages, emails, and comments responding to various types of content. The acronym is typically used in one of two ways. The first is to summarize content, and the second is to indicate that the person responding to content didn't read the text in its entirety or didn't read it at all.
There are several ways that TL;DR might be used to summarize content:
- When the content is long or complex, the author might add a short TL;DR section at the beginning or end of the text to summarize the information. The summary is often formatted as a bulleted list that touches on the content's salient points. TL;DR sections are added to a variety of online postings and internet communications, including articles, texts, emails and social network posts.
- Someone who references another source of information might include a short TL;DR statement along with that reference. This might be done as part of the content's main body or within a comment that responds to content. For example, a user might respond to a social network post with a comment that includes a link to a third-party blog post. Along with the link, the user includes a short TL;DR statement that summarizes the blog post.
- A reader who writes a comment in response to online content might include a short TL;DR statement that summarizes the content. This might be done to help other readers understand the content or as a way to suggest to the content's author that such a summary would be useful or that the information might not be clear.
How is TL;DR employed?
Content creators add TL;DR sections to help readers better understand the content or because they know there will be readers who will not want to read through all the content. Some authors add TL;DR sections to the beginning of the content, while others add it to the end.
By including the TL;DR section at the beginning, content creators are letting readers know from the start that a TL;DR section exists. This might keep some readers on the site longer, rather than have them jump immediately to another site. It might also help them better understand the content to come, if they choose to continue reading. However, this approach can run the risk of spoiling the story, if that is a factor. Putting the TL;DR section at the end reduces this risk and provides a good way to summarize the content to help emphasize important concepts.
TL;DR is not always used to summarize content. People will often include it in their comments to online content to indicate that they didn't have time to read the material, that they found it too wordy or convoluted, or that they couldn't be bothered reading it. For this reason, TL;DR is sometimes taken -- and often meant -- as a critique of the content or as an intentional attempt at sarcasm. Like any type of internet jargon, context is everything. The use of TL;DR between two good friends will likely be taken much differently than if an employee uses it to respond to a manager's feedback.
TL;DR can also be written as tl;dr, TLDR or, to a lesser degree, tldr. The abbreviation is technically known as an initialism, a type of abbreviation in which the individual letters are pronounced, as in UFO or BBC. Initialisms are distinct from acronyms, which are abbreviations that can be pronounced as words, such as RAM or NATO.