Pen and Script

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What is TLDR – and why use it?

Have you ever wondered about the acronym TLDR? In this article, I demystify the acronym and show how it helps you better consume content on the internet.

Have you ever seen a blog post or some other long article that has (near the top) an abbreviation of TLDR? You might also see it in the form of TL;DR tl;dr or tldr. The acronym is then followed by a short synopsis of the article. Why would an author put that on their article? Isn’t that what excerpts are for? Good question.

The Meaning of TLDR

The acronym TLDR is a shorthand notation used by editors to indicate that a passage seems too long to warrant reading it. The acronym literally means: too long, didn’t read. In other words, “revise this section to be more succinct“. So, why would it be placed on a public article that has obviously already made it past the crabby ‘ol editor? Another good question.

Internet Use of TLDR

When you see this acronym on a blog post or other article online, the meaning is the same, but the intent is different. In this context, it means, “If this article is too long for you, the main takeaway is…” So, it’s a helpful little synopsis that gives you a high-level view of what you can expect from the article. If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the TLDR section, there’s a good chance you won’t find what you’re looking for in the article. That can save you a whole lot of time over the course of, well, a lifetime!

A Delicate Balancing Act

It’s a delicate balancing act. If you write only long-form articles to keep search engines happy, you might alienate some of your visitors with all those daunting reads. On the other hand, if you only write short-form articles to keep visitors happy, you’re telling search engines that your content may not be authoritative.

Enter the TLDR! With these few characters, we can flag the readers attention before they dive into a long read and give them a “heads up” before they commit.

Wrapping Up

Isn’t it good to know that the TLDR isn’t some useless thing sitting around on the internet – it’s actually a gift from the author! It quickly helps you to determine if the article is worth investing your attention, so it’s important to not pass them by!

Extra Credit

The conclusion of an article is similar to a TLDR. Whereas the TLDR explains what you will read, the conclusion explains what you have just read. See the relation? To further illustrate the point, I’ll take my conclusion above and reword it into a TL;DR that could have been placed at the top of this article. Of course, this article is only about 550 words, so, there wasn’t really a need for it. Nonetheless:

The acronym TLDR stands for “too long, didn’t read.” It provides a brief synopsis of the main takeaway points of the article.

What do you think?

Personally, I think the TLDR belongs at the top of an article. If an article is too long to read, it’s probably too long to scroll down and see if there’s a TLDR at the bottom where it has no business being in the first pla…. wait, what? Oh, right…my inside voice. I’d love to hear your thoughts – let me know in the comments!

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