What Is the Expression 'ASL'?

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'A/S/L' is short for asking 'what is your age/sex/location?', a type of abrupt question that is common when someone new joins an online chat forum.

ASL is an expression that regular chat users will employ to identify if a new user is a man or woman and if that person is in their age range.

A/S/L can be spelled as lowercase 'a/s/l' or 'asl' for ease of typing. Different spelling and punctuation versions mean the same thing.

Be warned: when people use asl, it often means a precursor to sexual advances. They are trying to quickly assess you as a potential object of flirtation.

Example of A/S/L usage:

  • (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 of A/S/L usage:

  • (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 ways you can respond to asl questions to deter sexual 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 would be:

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

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

  • 'old enough to know you're being rude/ married female / Colorado', or
  • '31 / married male / Ontario', or
  • 'older than I look / dude / North America'

The asl expression, like many other Internet expressions, is a 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.

Related: if the person persists on questioning you about who you are, where you live, and other personal details, the person could be an internet 'troll'.  

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 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 format, 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 using good judgment and knowing who your audience is. 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.