What Is 'NSFW'? What Does NSFW Mean?

Group of people looking shocked at computer screen
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NSFW is a warning for an email subject line. It means 'not safe for work' or 'not safe to be viewed at work'.

It is used to warn the recipient to not open the message at the office or near young children, because the message contains sexual or repulsive content. Commonly, NSFW is used when users like to forward lewd jokes or crude videos to their friends. Considering that millions of people read their personal email at work, the NSFW warning is helpful in saving people potential embarrassment with their coworkers or supervisor.

Example of NSFW expression usage:

(User 1): I'm going to send you a link to this video. This is the raunchiest humor I've seen in years! NSFW, though, so wait until you get home to watch it.

(User 2): OK, thanks for the warning. I won't watch that at work.

Example of NSFW expression usage:

(User 1): The unedited recording of Trump's interview is available. Man, that guy is a piece of work. I'll send you the link.

(User 2): Wait, how bad is the content? I'm at my office desk.

(User 1): Totally NSFW. I'll send it to your home email so you can watch it away from work.

(User 2): Thanks.

Example of NSFW expression usage:

(Person 1): Holy crap. This Chelsea Handler comedian is something else. I can't believe she says this stuff on television!

(Person 2): She's pretty raunchy?

(Person 1): O man, this is absolutely NSFW. Do not view this on your work computer, or you could lose your job.

(Person 2): Wow. What kinds of stuff does she say?

(Person 1): I think I'll let you just watch one of her episodes and you decide for yourself!

Example of NSFW expression usage:

(User 1): So, I just downloaded a copy of the latest Star Trek movie. Or at least what I thought was Star Trek.

(User 2): Was something wrong with your download?

(User 1): LOL, it was a porn version of Star Trek! Totally NSFW, and I almost embarrassed myself by playing the video on my iPad.  Good thing I had the volume off!

(User 2): Whew, close call! Don't be doing that kind of thing at the office, you could lose your job!

The NSFW expression, like many other Internet expressions, is part of online conversation culture.

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 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.