This is an abbreviation for “by the way”. Used in various online communications such as e-mail messages, instant messaging, and social media.
Such abbreviations became popular during the early days of instant messaging, as they helped reduce the amount of typing required to convey a thought and sped up the communication process. Abbreviations became even more popular during the rise of mobile communication, prior to the widespread use of smartphones. Since text messaging had a small character limit and early phones were much harder to text on (particularly those without qwerty keyboards), abbreviations were commonly used to reduce the amount of characters and effort required to carry on a lengthy conversation. While smartphones have made such communications much easier, abbreviations such as BTW are still commonly used, though many less obvious abbreviations have gone out of style.
Also See: Smileys and Abbreviations
Frequently Asked Questions
With suggestive typing, why does anyone still use BTW?
Despite the technological advancements in mobile devices, some communication platforms, such as text messaging and Twitter, still limit the number of characters that can be used in any given response, so abbreviations linger on. Even if these technologies eventually permit unlimited characters, BTW will likely continued to be used. Despite the improvements in mobile keyboards and advancements in suggestive typing, or the fact that typing “by the way” now takes barely more time than typing BTW, these abbreviations continue to be used extensively, even on platforms with no limitations, because they have transcended the electric page and become part of our lexicon.
Does it have to be capitalized?
In informal, online communication, many people think of capitalization as optional. If you’re using BTW in such a setting, go ahead and leave it in lowercase. It’s meant to save time, and switching to caps mode on your mobile phone adds time. However, use caution if you decide to use BTW in a more professional setting, such as work email chain. Chances are, no one will call you out for failing to capitalize it, but don’t take that chance. And, BTW, never use abbreviations in anything more important than an informal email between colleagues. If your CEO is on that email chain, spell the words out!
Can I use BTW anywhere online?
Abbreviations are great for informal communications between friends and even for casual social networking. You can even get away with using them on more public social media sites, such as Twitter, where size restrictions have made abbreviations perfectly acceptable. However, remember that even on social media you are representing yourself to the world. Make sure you are using abbreviations appropriately, and try to avoid them in a setting where you are trying to be seen as a professional, particularly on sites such as LinkedIn, where you are marketing yourself to potential future employers and business partners.