Can you understand text messages?

If you have difficulty understanding text messages, don't worry - you're not alone.

The language of text messages, based on abbreviations, has become so complex that over a third of businesses have difficulty understanding the messages they receive, according to a survey by the UK MDA (Mobile Data Association).

The popularity of text messages has created a highly complex new language, where :-/ means 'I am confused' and the letters 'HAND' mean have a nice day, so people have to learn abbreviations to comprehend even the simplest of messages.

"Teenagers use a fairly complex code, abbreviating words to minimise typing, similar to the way they speak to one another," said a spokesman at Yahoo, one of the many web firms to offer online text messaging. "But it is the older generation which seems to have more problems adopting this new language."

But it's not just 'older people' who are experiencing problems.

Eight in 10 business executives now converse via text messages, according to the MDA, but a third of those executives have trouble deciphering messages they have been sent by clients.

"The world of work seems to be lagging behind," said Dr David Lewis, communications specialist at MDA. "What many people in business would find useful are some practical tips on speaking text."

But is there really a need to use such complex abbreviations? Even the most proficient text users would be hard pushed to work out that, *()()()-{ translates to catch me if you can.

"Looking at some of my messages, I wonder if the person who sent them even understands what he's written," said Yahoo's spokesman.

Over 1.3 billion text messages were sent in December last year alone, with the craze set to continue growing.

A website set up by the MDA, www.text.it, has some handy hints on the art of text messaging.

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Wendy Brewer

PC World

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