Common reader acronyms explained: TBR, HEA , HFN, DNF... what do they mean?

Amorette Anderson

Have you ever had a head-scratching moment as you gaze at an acronym in a social media post or online book review? I know I have! Lots of us get confused by puzzling piles of letters (like TBR, HEA, HFN, DNF, and others) especially since there are more and more everyday as social media and online communication continue to evolve. In this post I’ll give you a quick run-down of some of the more common ones. 

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Photo by Sherise VD on Unsplash

What is a TBR list? 

TBR stands for To Be Read. A TBR list is just what it sounds like: a list of books that a person plans to read eventually. For some readers, this is a written list. Others might use an app or a tech-friendly way of staying organized, like virtually keeping all books they intend to read on a particular “shelf” on the Goodreads platform. For me, my TBR list has always just floated around in my head. If I hear a book mentioned a few times, I put it on my mental list. 

What does ARC mean? 

ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copy. This is a manuscript that authors give out to select readers before the book is published. It is given in advance of the publication date. You might also hear about a reader being on an “ARC Team” for an author. That means that the reader is on a team that receives these early copies of books from that particular author. ARC Teams are also sometimes called “Street Teams.” 

What does HEA mean, and what does HFN mean? 

HEA is an acronym that means Happily Ever After. You might see this term in a review for a romance novel, for example, if the story ended with the guy getting the girl, wedding bells, and a baby on a hip. Cozies also sometimes have HEA endings, especially if it is the final book in a series. The amateur sleuth and hard-nosed detective walk down the aisle together, the bad guy is gone for good, the town is safe… whatever it may be, there’s a feeling of complete closure and certainty of a positive future. 

You might also come across the term “HFN” in book reviews or other chatter about books online. It stands for “Happy For Now” and it means that the problems that popped up in the book are resolved… for now. It’s not guaranteed that the resolution is permanent, though. This might look like romantic tension being resolved with a kiss but no commitment, or a bad guy stumbling off after issuing a warning like: “I’ll be back!” The story has a positive, happy, satisfying ending, despite the fact that the solutions are not permanent. 

What does DNF mean in a book review? 

DNF stands for Did Not Finish. It means that for some reason, the reader did not get to the end of the story. This might be because the characters rubbed the reader the wrong way, there was something off about the writing, the plot wasn’t engaging. Or, it might just be that the book and the reader were not a good match. Often times, DNF reviews will include reasons for why the reader didn’t finish, which might be insightful to other readers. 

What does MC stand for? 

When it comes to the world of books, MC stands for Main Character. If the discussion is about a romance novel you might also see MMC or FMC, meaning Male Main Character or Female Main Character. 

siora photography hgFY1mZY Y0 unsplash Common reader acronyms explained: TBR, HEA , HFN, DNF... what do they mean?
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

When it comes to online social gathering places, like Facebook, sometimes the lingo about books can be confusing. Most of us want to get our points across quickly and efficiently, and acronyms can save a lot of time! If these acronyms puzzled you in the past, not to worry. The next time you see them, you’ll know just what they mean. Bring on the reader lingo, right? 

I am sure there are many more acronyms to discuss, but that’s all I’ve got for now. If you have another one on your mind please share in the comments, below. Fellow readers might learn something new from you:) 

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