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Home / Tips and Tricks / What does “VAT” mean and how do you use it?

What does “VAT” mean and how do you use it?

The letters
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If you opened your phone today, chances are you̵

7;ve already seen a message with the abbreviation BTW in it. Here’s what it means and how you can use it.


VAT stands for “by the way.” It is used to insert a new idea into a conversation or to bring up something (such as a reminder). It can also be used to quickly change the topic of a discussion.

Even compared to other slang terms, VAT is one of the most popular acronyms on the Internet. Not only is it used in millions of personal messages and social media posts, but can also be seen in website articles, advertisements, and even professional emails. It is even spoken out loud in real life and has its own special pronunciation.

VAT can be written in both uppercase and lowercase letters. However, the lowercase “btw” is much more common, especially with the rise of mobile messaging. In the early 2000s it was common to think of it as “VAT” with dots between the letters, but that version is no longer common.

Where does VAT come from?

The expression “by the way” has been used in modern written and spoken English for a long time. It can be seen and heard in many books, movies and songs from before the Internet. That is probably why VAT is one of the very first commonly used phrases to be abbreviated on the Internet. It first popped up in online chat forums in the 1990s and was later adopted by every other part of the world wide web.

The first definition for VAT on Urban Dictionary came in 2002 and it simply says “By The Way”. It has since been added to the Cambridge English Dictionary and has played a role in millions of online conversations between people.

Bringing things up

A young couple standing back to back while using their phones.
George Rudy / Shutterstock.com

The main use of VAT is to tell someone something. For example, there may be a recent event, such as major surgery, that you would like to talk about. That’s why you could say, “By the way, how did your operation go?” The phrase can apply to current events, recent TV shows you’ve watched, or anything under the sun.

You can also use it to remind someone of something. For example, you can ask your colleague, “By the way, have you already sent the email?”

It can also be used to completely change the subject. If you’re still chatting with someone and you want to talk about something specific, maybe pop in and say, “By the way, let’s talk about your personal finances.” In this case, VAT is used to direct the conversation to a specific topic.

Another common case of VAT is asking a question. While someone else is discussing something, you could say, “By the way, can you clarify the budget allocation?”

What “BT Dubs” means

While internet language entered the mainstream vocabulary, some were spoken out loud in spoken conversations. Since “BTW” is quite a long and comprehensive thing to say, since it has even more syllables than “by the way”, teens started saying “BT Dubs” instead. “Dubs” is a shortened version of the letter W.

“BT Dubs” has since become quite common in the language, especially among teenagers. For example, someone might say, “BT Dubs, are you cooking tonight?” The trend to change acronyms when spoken out loud isn’t exclusive to VAT either. Other popular terms such as “LOL” are pronounced as written rather than spelled.

How to use VAT

As mentioned before, while the lowercase letter “btw” is much more common in chat conversations, both upper and lower case letters are fine. Unlike other internet acronyms, VAT is flexible enough to be used in professional environments and communications, provided it is done in the right context. Don’t let your business email contain too many abbreviations at once.

As a rule of thumb, replace any sentence where you would otherwise say “by the way” with VAT. Here are a few examples:

  • “Besides, don’t forget to take out the trash.”
  • “Oh yes, by the way, how is your new apartment?”
  • “By the way, are you free for movie night tomorrow night?”
  • “By the way, you still haven’t told me about your new job.”

If you want to learn other online slang terms, check out our articles on TBH, SMH, and TTYL, and you’ll be texting like a digital native in no time.

RELATED: What does “TBH” mean and how do you use it?

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