Stop Using The “IRL” Acronym Already

by Dwayne Kilbourne on November 21, 2012

Let’s set the record straight! If you’ve only met me and communicated with me through online channels, it wasn’t fake [it was real life]! So, let’s be realistic and use the appropriate term or acronym. What I do online and offline is real, and I can’t imagine anything is different in your case. Sometimes, it simply appears that one or two people create a term or acronym, and it sticks – even if its context is actually incorrect. Before the whole IRL phenomenon, I’d be most frustrated when people use the term “PIN number” when requesting somebody to type in that secret numerical passcode upon making a debit card purchase. That bad habit basically just ate at me because the word, “number” is part of the “PIN” acronym, so saying “PIN number” essentially was saying “Personal Identification Number Number.” Simply, it makes us sound uneducated. Of course, there are numerous other examples of these incorrect acronyms, etc., and we have all made the mistake in saying them from time to time, but I strive to correct myself and make the added effort to reverse these bad speaking habits! When writing on the IRL topic, Alexandra Samuel said the following:

IRL: In Real Life. It’s used as shorthand all over the Internet, to distinguish what happens online from what happens offline. And it’s a lie. If we still refer to the offline world as ‘real life,’ it’s only a sign of deep denial — or unwarranted shame — about what reality looks like in the 21st century.

Avoid using IRL in bad speech

So, What Should The Correct Term Be?

Good question! Certainly, that is up to you to decide, but I offer some options for you to consider.

–          IP (In Person): Essentially, the whole intended meaning behind the current usage of IRL is to indicate when you’ve met somebody in person (IP), so why not just keep it simple and stick with the more direct [IP] acronym? Of course, some would contend that using IP might confuse others  since the IP acronym has already been popularized to mean Internet Protocol. So, there’s a downfall to this option.

–          MIP [Meet or Met In Person]: This option would potentially help ensure that people did not get your use of IP confused (as mentioned above). Sure, it might not roll off the tongue just right, but it would be correct and better than IRL.

Of course, we don’t have to use an acronym just for the sake of using one. If it doesn’t fit just right, don’t wear it! Let’s get back to the basics and say things right. I’ve been talking about this for over one year now, and I sure hope that more people think about the meaning of their words before saying them. So, if you are taking to me about IRL, I will simply assume that you are referencing the Indy Racing League!



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  • Jacob Curtis

    I’ve been a long time MMORPG (massive multi-player role playing game) player since the days of Everquest back in 2000. I remember seeing IRL used in game chat as more of a joke.

    Aka: “My character is a wood elf chick, but I’m a dude IRL”

    I had no idea people we’re using it outside of the gaming community. It was never meant to be used seriously….

    Looks like we share the same pet peeve!

  • Chadmcdaniel2

    Cool blog you have here. I love the theme you have integrated with it.

  • David Hiatt

    I ike how you have stated this. It reminds me of the VIN (Number) of a Vehicle. I am in the Auto Industry and people are always saying “What is the VIN Number to the Vehicle?” Vehicle Identification Number Number. LOL

  • Paula Henry ?

    I never met you IP, but friended you IRL 🙂 

  • dwaynekilbourne


  • dwaynekilbourne

    I forgot about the whole VIN “number” – we throw acronyms around without understanding their meaning these days!

  • dwaynekilbourne

    thank you

  • dwaynekilbourne

    IRL is catchy, so people tend to overuse it!

  • Brian Freytag

    IRL stemmed from fictional worlds on the internet (MMORPGS, for example), or even role-players. Where who you are in the game isn’t necessarily who you are “in real life.” I play WoW. If we’re in game and somebody asks me, “What do you do?” I say, “I’m a miner and skinner,” because “you” in game is referring to your in-game character. By asking, “What do you do IRL?” I know they are asking about my life outside of game, so I respond, “Web Developer.”

    It is still a very relevant term, imho, but one that can easily be abused and over-used, and only applies to certain situations.

  • Lonnie Appleby

    Another one that irritates me is ZIP Code. People do not realize that ZIP is an acronym and should be all caps. Zone Improvement Plan Code…ZIP Code. I love that you find little things like that annoying enough to point out also. CHEERS!

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