What Is 'AFK'? What Does AFK Mean?

An empty chair in front of an open laptop in a home office

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What Does AFK Mean?

Answer: 'AFK' is 'Away from Keyboard'. 

AFK is used in live chatting to advise people that you will not be responding for the few minutes as you will be away from the computer. AFK is commonly used with a descriptor like "afk bio" (you are going to the washroom), or "afk phone" (you are answering a phone call).

AFK is a very common expression. AFK can be used in both uppercase and lowercase form.

Note: typing entire sentences in uppercase is considered rude shouting.

Examples of AFK Usage

  • Ooop, afk: I need to let the dogs out
  • afk for a minute, phone call
  • afk, wife is yelling for me
  • afk, I just spilled coffee all over my desk
  • afk, boss is coming
  • Guys, I have to go afk in about 10 minutes. I'm expecting the pizza delivery guy, but it should be really quick when he gets here.

Example of Text Message Use of AFK

  • User 1: Joan? Are you there?
  • User 2: sorry was AFK talking to Chris.
  • User 1: np, I just wanted to get your thoughts on this email I want to send to the client.

Example of AFK Expression Usage

  • Person 1: Ermahgerd! I just had my first ever plum donut from the Polish bakery!
  • Person 2: (no response)
  • Person 1: Tuan, are you there?
  • Person 2: (no response)
  • Person 1: DUDE
  • Person 2: sorry was afk in the bathroom. Where is this Polish bakery?

Example of AFK Usage

  • User 1: Ermahgerd! The pizza man just came to my door, and he was wearing pink pants and cowboy boots!
  • User 2: (no response) 
  • User 1: and he was so funny, he was singing Bruno Mars while he gave me my change!
  • User 2: (no response) 
  • User 1: Kelly?
  • User 2: sorry, was AFK. Jules was yelling for me to help him with groceries

Example of AFK Usage

  • Shelby: omg, I just got a legendary drop from this quest momb!
  • Tuan: (no response) 
  • Shelby: GUYS! Check out my new legendary!
  • Tuan: I was afk taking the dogs out. Wow, congrats on that new pair of gloves! That's awesome!

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

Expressions Similar to AFK:

  • BBIAB: (Be Back in a Bit)
  • TTYL: (Talk to You Later)
  • CU: (See You!)
  • CUL8R: (See You Later!) 
  • BRB: (Be Right Back)
  • BRT: (Be Right There)

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.