DEAR HARRIETTE: I am 18, and I baby-sit frequently. Whenever certain parents text me, they use stereotypical "text speak," like "LMK" or "2NITE" or "GRT" -- I cannot even understand it! It is incredibly informal, and I have never communicated with them using any slang or lingo. Are they trying to relate to me by texting me this way? Should I continue to decipher, or is there a polite way to tell them I will understand if they message me normally? -- Bridging the Gap, Pittsburgh
DEAR BRIDGING THE GAP: I can feel you cringing as you are receiving these messages as I can also see these parents working overtime to attempt to seem hip and cool. Yes, you are the one who needs to address this. Use great sensitivity because they are making an effort to talk to you the way they believe you communicate using text messaging. Tell them that you have noticed that they often use abbreviations when they are texting you, and you don't always know what these acronyms mean. Ask them to please write to you straight. That way, you will not run the risk of mistakenly following a direction they did not give you, or otherwise misinterpreting their communication. When you do not understand a text from them, always ask for clarification.