What Does TPTB Stand For?

Large businessman nurturing lots of small businessmen

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This is internet shorthand for describing 'upper management' or 'the authorities in charge, whose names we don't even know'.

TPTB stands for: The Powers That Be

TPTB is commonly used when you are discussing the organization or current political situation, and you want to make reference to the management who truly control the situation.

TPTB can be spelled in all lowercase or all uppercase; both versions mean the same thing. Just be careful not to type entire sentences in all uppercase, lest you be accused of shouting online.

Example of TPTB usage:

  • (User 1, instant message) Why do we have to fill out these stupid forms now? Aren't the work orders enough to capture this?
  • (User 2) I dunno. TPTB want to capture more data, I guess.
  • (User 1) Well, TPTB need a slap to the head. The data on these forms is the same as the data in the work order 'details' field.

Another example of TPTB usage:

  • (Murray) Our customer service desk sucks. We keep trying to push people off the phone within 4 minutes, and if in doubt, we tell them to reformat their hard drives. Stoooopid!
  • (Katerina) You can't blame the CSR people, they are just doing what management tells them to do.
  • (Murray) Yeah, well, if TPTB would just pull their heads out of their butts, our CSR's could actually do an effective job of helping our customers instead of just giving them 4 minutes of lip service and bad advice.

The TPTB expression, like many cultural curiosities and memes of the Internet, is a part of modern English communication.

How to Capitalize and Punctuate Web and Texting Abbreviations: 

Capitalization is a non-concern when using text message abbreviations and chat jargon. You are welcome to use all uppercase (e.g. ROFL) or all lowercase (e.g. rofl), and the meaning is identical. Avoid typing entire sentences in uppercase, though, as that means shouting in online speak.

Proper punctuation is similarly a non-concern with most text message abbreviations. For example, the abbreviation for 'Too Long, Didn't Read' can be abbreviated as TL;DR or as TLDR. Both are acceptable formats, with or without punctuation.

Never use periods (dots) between your jargon letters. It would defeat the purpose of speeding up thumb typing. For example, ROFL would never be spelled R.O.F.L., and TTYL would never be spelled T.T.Y.L. 

Recommended Etiquette for Using Web and Texting Jargon 

Knowing when to use jargon in your messaging is about knowing who your audience is, knowing if the context is informal or professional, and then using good judgment. If you know the people well, and it is a personal and informal communication, then absolutely use abbreviation jargon. On the flip side, if you are just starting a friendship or professional relationship with the other person, then it is a good idea to avoid abbreviations until you have developed a relationship rapport.

If the messaging is in a professional context with someone at work, or with a customer or vendor outside your company, then avoid abbreviations altogether. Using full word spellings shows professionalism and courtesy. It is much easier to err on the side of being too professional and then relax your communications over time than doing the inverse.