I know that "SMS" stands for "Short Messaging Service." But,

The term SMS is used as a synonym for all types of short text messaging as well as the user activity itself in many parts of the world

(Source: Wikipedia). Therefore, should I used the phrase "SMS" or "SMS Message"? This doesn't seem to be as straightforward as the obviously wrong (yet widely used) "ATM Machine" and "PIN Number."

  • Technically, "SM" would be the most proper way. But this acronym is already reserved :) – Honza Zidek Jun 3 '14 at 8:16

First, there's nothing wrong with "ATM machine", "PIN number", or "scuba gear". The argument that they are redundant or erroneous is an example of the etymological fallacy, the argument that how a word originated tells us the "right" way to use it today. Acronyms are words and they develop meanings that are not necessarily identical to the meaning of the words from which they are formed.

You can use either "SMS" or "SMS message". The term "SMS" can refer to either the service itself or a message sent using that service.

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    I disagree: while we still insist on writing ATM in all caps, it isn't a word; thus its expansion is relevant to proper usage, and the most charitable interpretation of "ATM machine" is that you suffer from a stutter. – Marthaª Sep 14 '11 at 4:55
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    @Martha: I vehemently disagree. – David Schwartz Sep 14 '11 at 5:02
  • Is ATM an acronym or merely an abbreviation? Anyway, redundan or not, I don't see a problem with things like ATM machine either, it helps make your meaning clearer. – Hugo Sep 14 '11 at 5:04
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    About 1% of the time, "ATM" is followed by "machine". The same is true with "HIV" and "virus". Personally, "HIV virus" bothers me but "ATM machine" seems fine. But obviously different people have different views. My point is simply that the argument that "ATM machine" is wrong because the "M" stands for "machine" is a pure etymological fallacy. It could not be possibly be correct because language doesn't work that way. – David Schwartz Sep 14 '11 at 8:28
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You can use SMS in place of SMS message if you wish.

Here's an example taken from Orange:

The first time you use this service you will receive an SMS with an invite to enter your twitter username and password.

Here's an "O2 guru" explaining "how to send an SMS".

In the UK, US and Australia most people call SMS messages text messages or texts, and sending SMS messages is called texting.

  • "In the UK most people call SMS messages text messages or texts, and sending SMS messages is called texting." Same in the U.S. I'm in California, but I believe the same holds true elsewhere in the States. – narx Sep 14 '11 at 7:57
  • Same in Australia. "SMS" was more common in the 90s, back when mobile phone use was less widespread. – nnnnnn Sep 14 '11 at 13:12
  • Thanks, I have updated the answer. I thought it worth mentioning this difference in terminology with many parts of the world (Europe, Middle East, etc.) where they usually would use SMS. – z7sg Ѫ Sep 14 '11 at 14:24

Use "SMS message"; everyone does. I googled "SMS" message and SMS alone always refers to the messaging service, not to an individual message.

I don't think it is as redundant as PIN number or ATM machine, since a Short Messaging Service message is a message using that service, whereas PIN number, for instance, is redundant.

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    +1 "SMS alone always refers to the messaging service, not to an individual message." The idea of sending an entire service by text is rather absurd, so I quite concur. – Rae Sep 14 '11 at 1:02
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    Most people I've heard (in South Africa at least) purely use "I'll SMS you". It's common use - at least here. – Nick Otime Sep 14 '11 at 8:20
  • @Rae: I don't think it does. If you google "send an SMS" (with the quotes), you'll see many uses of "SMS" to mean "a message sent using SMS". – David Schwartz Sep 15 '11 at 10:55
  • @David Well, hence the question as to the correct usage...so perhaps it should be rephrased, "When used properly, SMS alone always refers to the messaging service." Of course, I'm only basing correct usage on the meaning of the letters in the acronym. – Rae Sep 15 '11 at 12:06
  • But the question is not what the letters in the acronym mean. – David Schwartz Sep 15 '11 at 20:14

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