What Does TLDR Mean?

How to understand and use this internet abbreviation

TLDR means: Too Long; Didn't Read

You open a lengthy social media post, an article, or a text message and see a separate section titled TLDR (or TL;DR), along with a summary of the post. It's either a summary of a longer page or it's an indication that the sender didn't find the information worth reading.

How TLDR Is Used

If someone types TL;DR, they might be requesting a summary of information that was sent, expressing that no one has time to read something that long, or simply notifying the sender or poster that the information was too long and they didn't read it.

TL;DR can also be a shortened version of whatever you want to say. ("Here's the TL;DR version.") Occasionally, TL;DR can mean "too lazy, didn't read."

Like most internet jargon, the expression is not suitable for initial business dealings. TL;DR is best used in personal texting, email, online chatting, or if a business acquaintance has become a friend.

Both uppercase and lowercase versions of TL;DR (tldr) mean the same thing and are perfectly acceptable. Some people also type it as TLDR without the semicolon. That's okay, too.

Person reading a TL;DR comment on a long web site
Emilie Dunphy / Lifewire

Examples of TL;DR Usage

Example 1:

  • (User 1) So, if you look at the above 17 cited instances, you'll understand why I want this project to be approved.
  • (User 2) TL;DR
  • (User 1) Wait! You're not going to read the examples so you can understand my ideas?
  • (User 2) Mhm

Example 2:

  • (User 1) I'm going to quote several paragraphs from the Criminal Code of Justice around speeding on interstates. TLDR version: yes, the state police and the local counties can jail you for up to 72 hours if you are speeding on an interstate.

Origins of the TL;DR Expression

The exact origins of TL;DR are unclear, but its first Urban Dictionary entry appeared in 2003. It likely arose in opinionated discussion forums, where posts can quickly turn into long rants.

Today, you can find TL;DR posts and comments all over social media, computer help forums, texts, and emails. While some instances of TLDR can appear rude or snarky, it is often a helpful suggestion that a user should consider revising and abbreviating their thoughts. It's also a useful way to introduce a shortened version of what you want to say.

Expressions similar to TL;DR include:

  • Cool story, bro (indicates a story was boring or pointless)
  • TLDC (Too Long Don't Care)
  • BTAIM (Be That as It May)
  • ELI5 (Explain Like I'm 5)
  • ORLY (Oh, Really?)

Capitalizing and Punctuating Web and Text Abbreviations

Capitalization is a non-concern when using text abbreviations and chat jargon. Use all uppercase (TL;DR ) or all lowercase (tl;dr) letters, and the meaning is identical.

Proper punctuation is similarly a non-concern with most text message abbreviations. For example, the acronym for "too long, didn't read" can be TL;DR or TLDR. Both are acceptable.

Never use periods (dots) between your acronym letters; it would defeat the purpose of being a shortcut. For example, ROFL would never be spelled R.O.F.L., and TLDR would never be T.L.D.R. 

Recommended Etiquette for Web and Text Jargon 

When tempted to use jargon in messages, evaluate who your audience is, if the context is informal or professional, and then use good judgment. If you know someone well and it is a personal and informal communication, then absolutely use abbreviations. On the flip side, if you are just starting a friendship or professional relationship, avoid abbreviations until you've developed a relationship rapport.

If messaging in a professional context with someone at work, or with a customer or vendor outside your company, avoid abbreviations altogether. Spelling out full words shows professionalism and courtesy. It is much smarter to err on the side of being too professional at first, and then relax your communication over time organically.