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By definition

TL;DR, short for "too long; didn't read", is Internet slang to say that some text being replied to has been ignored because of its length. In slang it can also stand for "Too lazy; didn't read". It is also used as a signifier for a summary of an online post or news article.
Wikipedia

Usually the author of a long post gives a tl;dr, a summary of the what the post about in a short paragraph or sentence. This can be put before the post begins, or the after.

tl;dr We are asking you to start saving water and electricity for the sake of our environment.

Blahblahblah...

I've seen two types of people, who scrolls down to see the tl;dr, and those who looks for the summary on the top of the post. This makes me unsure where to put my post summary. If I were to write a post, a letter, etc. how can I decide which position is the most beneficial to me, i.e avoid people skipping my question entirely and getting the message across.

tl;dr How can I decide that putting my tl;dr at the top of the post, or bottom, will benefits me the most? What factors should I consider?

I'm thinking more about the types of the post: informational post might be better with bottom summary, while question better with top summary. What other factors affecting this?

Note: Some put a notification at top of the post, informing a tl;dr is available at the bottom of the post.

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    A "TL;DR" is pretty much the exact same thing as an "executive summary", only (typically) somewhat different in scale. Where would one put the executive summary? – a CVn Jan 26 '18 at 23:24
  • Usually, an executive summary goes at the beginning of a document, but it is different in scale and often time you are expecting a longer document. In terms of TL;DR I always put it at the bottom. This is because (as a reader) by the time you've started reading the post not knowing the length and realize its too long (or you're too lazy) to read the whole thing, you've already started scrolling down, so it just seems natural to wrap up the whole thing at the end. That's how I've always seen it at least. – Trynda E. Adair Jan 30 '18 at 17:36
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Where to put the a tl;dr or summary is going to vary depending on the piece.

For example, an email from I.T. warning about a change will include the most important information and what users need to do upfront, and then may include further details beneath that for those who are curious.

Having the tl;dr at the beginning means people are more likely to see it.

In other pieces of writing it makes more sense to have it at the end. For example, someone sharing a story might include the tl;dr at the end to avoid spoiling anything for someone reading the whole thing.

tl;dr If the tl;dr is important information, put it at the top. If it's for convenience, put it at the bottom.

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I've usually seen it posted at the bottom, end of post, usually quoted or bolded to stand out.

It could be placed in the top of the post, but I think the purpose (whether stated or not) is there to summarize what the author posted. At the front doesn't have the same impact. It seems more like an intro/ summary. They are hoping you read their post, or skimmed over enough of it to have an idea what is being posted. The tl;dr is a summary of the long post. It is a hook to help the reader remember the key points of the post. The "tl;dr" is more less a "cute" way of addressing and phrasing the summary.

tl;dr Post it at the end as a summary of your post. Those who read it see the highlighted points. Those who haven't read the full post get a general idea and can choose to go back and reread or not.

Also is this a question about you writing a "tl;dr" type post or a blog, or is it a question based on what you are reading?


Another possibility for the "tl;dr" is the author is having trouble finding their own point in the post. I know I am guilty of it. Watch out, reread a few times and make sure you're getting to the point and not writing around the point. It may take a few passes to realize that and go back and trim the post. (that's why I heavily edit most of my posts.) The first pass is usually an incoherent jumbled mess. The second pass is a little more cleaned up. More words spell checked and some clean-up attempted. I may expand some points or cut points. Further passes I'll focus on how each sentence reads and try to fix fragments. I'll try to further expand or cut irrelevant clutter. Depending on how much time and how many edits are allowed (if any at all) a post may get stuck as less than polished.

That said Putting tl;dr, could be used as an excuse to avoid doing further editing. If you're tempted to put one in, you may want to go over and reread your post and see what you can trim, shorten, or condense before resorting to putting a "tl;dr" type disclaimer in.

  • The last part should he be asked in a comment. Im not quite sure if this is too broad without specifying what kind of writing, but currently i'm looking for general post/blog writing. Nothing like paper. – Vylix Jan 27 '18 at 0:17
  • @Vylix Overall, the way your question is worded can be too broad. It could be taken to be in just about any online work. (I don't see it used in print as much but I wouldn't rule it out.) Just seems right now the question could be taken many ways. I suggest you edit it a bit more to be specific. – BugFolk Jan 27 '18 at 0:32
  • @Vylix not knowing the exact context, I'm taking it to be more of a "why" type question and "what can I do about it in my own posts" type thing. I think first would be to see what you can do to not require it. If it must be a long post then use it as a summary. – BugFolk Jan 27 '18 at 0:34
  • @BugFolk - I went the other way, but I see what you mean about a hook. Swings, roundabouts, potayto, potahto etc. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Jan 27 '18 at 10:51
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    @ ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Either way works. At the front, helps summarize and create a good intro. The reader knows upfront what the key points are. I see it commonly used at the end. A very interesting lengthy post that is well written, it can work. But I've also seen it done as an attempt to highlight important parts of a post that could be cleaned up and edited, trimmed down, like my second example. In the later example, the Tl;dr is being used as a crutch, and may not be needed if edited properly. – BugFolk Jan 27 '18 at 17:35
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The tl;dr at the end is often the result of an unthinking or lazy writer.

For example on a Q&A-site like this, someone reads a question, feels an inclination to reply, and begins to write an answer before they think their answer through. As a result, they think while they write and only understand what they want to say when they come to the end of what they have said. Given this post hoc understanding, they now "summarize" their insight. Therefore, often this alleged "summary" is the answer proper, while the long prefix is actually not an answer at all but the person thinking up their answer "aloud". In many forum posts everything but the tl;dr could easily be deleted without loss of any relevant information.

Professional writers usually open their text with a summary. Newspaper articles summarize the content very briefly in the title (this is called a "descriptive title"), then more extensively in the lead paragraph, and then the rest of the text provides the detail for those that want that detail. Similarly, scholarly articles have a title that summarizes the central finding of the research, then an abstract gives the most important details, and then the text itself gives all the detail for those that want to know more.

Good blog writers (or Q&A-answerers) do the same: they summarize the essential information at the beginning of the text. This is userfriendly, because users always see and briefly scan the beginning of a text, even if they intend to scroll to the bottom. Thus, everyone gets a basic idea of what a text is about and what the central information is, before they have to waste time searching for that.

tl;dr

See my first sentence ;-)

  • I wouldn't call it "unthinking" or "lazy" in the context you're using. I'd say it is over thinking. The writer's got their point in mind, but not quite grasping it, or they have grasped and stated their point, but have several versions of "getting the point" in their writing. Further editing would help the writer go back and pick which sentence or paragraph of "stating the point" is the best and cull the rest. I see it as a variation of "kill your darlings." – BugFolk Jan 27 '18 at 17:28
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    I guess overall I have a slightly different take. My first question would be why there needs to be a tl;dr summary or disclaimer to begin with? My thought is most cases it is better to avoid needing one. If the post is very long afterwards, then yes a summary is useful. One at the top to introduce the points, and one at the end to summarize what's been said. – BugFolk Jan 27 '18 at 17:54
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I'd be inclined to put a summary at the beginning, similar to an abstract in an academic paper. That way people would see it first, those who were interested could read further, and those who were not would still see the summary. Putting it at the end might lead those who weren't particularly interested to feel they had wasted time getting there, and those who were to think "what do you mean? That was just fine."

You've already identified "tl;dr" as slang, so all the usual questions about where slang works and where it doesn't will apply. This particular one isn't one of my favourites - if the writer really thinks the post is too long, why didn't they do something about it?

The other thing about slang is it can date quite quickly. It might look groovy now, but in a year or so the posts might look like they were written by a square.

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