What Is the Expression 'ASL'?

ASL Is a Request for Your Age, Sex, and Location in an Online Setting

Couple laying on floor, using laptop and mp3 player
Cultura RM/Steven Lam/Collection Mix: Subjects/Getty Images

A/S/L or ASL is shorthand for asking, "what is your age/sex/location?" This type of abrupt question is common in online chat forums when someone new joins. ASL is an expression that regular chat users employ to identify whether a new user is a man or woman and if that person is in their age range or vicinity.

A/S/L, ASL, asl, and a/s/l all mean the same thing. When someone asks you this question, you don't have to reply, but a nonspecific answer is friendly and appropriate as long as it doesn't give away any personal information. When people use ASL, it is sometimes a precursor to sexual advances. The inquirer is trying to assess you as a potential object of flirtation.

Examples of A/S/L Usage

Example 1:

  • (User 1) Hi, everyone! I'm new here to the forum and am looking to meet more people who are fans of "The Tudors" show.
  • (User 2) Fresh meat! A/S/L?
  • (User 1) Dream on, perv! I'm 43/athletic woman/work with your parents. Good enough?

Example 2:

  • (User 1) Greetings, forum dwellers. I'm a longtime lurker, new to posting. I drive a 2014 VW GTI and am interested in getting advice on how to customize the suspension and possibly get stage 1 ECU tuning.
  • (User 2) Welcome aboard. What is your ASL? Are you a serious driver looking to invest a lot of cash.
  • (User 1) I'm 24, male, and live in Ontario. I have about $4000 I'm willing to put into the car, but I want to make sure not to void the manufacturer's warranty.

Recommended Responses to ASL to Deter Advances 

Be as truthful as you can be while still being firm and clear. Do not give clues to your real life identity or specific location.

For example, a bad response is:

  • "27/female/Millcreek in Denver," as this discloses regional information about your location

A better response doesn't disclose any details that invite extra attention and ideally transmits humor:

  • "Old enough to know you're being rude/ married female/Colorado"
  • "31/married male/Ontario"
  • "Older than I look/dude/North America"

The ASL expression, like many other internet expressions, is part of online conversation culture. As with any human group behavior, speech and language expressions are used to build cultural identity through customized language and unique conversational expressions.

If someone persists on questioning you about who you are, where you live, and other personal details, the person could be an internet troll. Try to avoid the inquisitor and don't give your personal information out.

How to Capitalize and Punctuate Text and Chat Abbreviations 

  • Capitalization is not a concern when you use text message abbreviations and chat jargon. Whether you use all uppercase or all lowercase, the meaning is the same. Avoid typing entire sentences in uppercase, though, as that is interpreted by the recipient as shouting.
  • Proper punctuation is similarly not a 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. Either is acceptable.
  • Never use periods between jargon letters. That defeats the original purpose of speeding up thumb typing. 

Etiquette for Using Web and Texting Jargon 

Knowing when to use jargon in your messaging is about using good judgment and knowing your audience. If you know the people well, and the message is a personal and informal communication, then jargon is acceptable. However, if you are starting a friendship or professional relationship with another person, 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 relax your communications over time than doing the reverse.