Beginner’s Guide to Romance Reading Acronyms

You read a romance review or a discussion online. A few acronyms show up repeatedly but you don’t know what they mean. Here are some definitions of the most commonly used acronyms romance readers favor: 

TBR: To Be Read
It’s that stack of books that you own or borrowed. They are books that interested you enough to get a copy but you still have other books to read. You say you’re going to read all the books in your TBR but it’s kind of hard to do that when you keep adding more books to the pile. Note: If you keep telling a fellow reader to get a book and her reply is “Oh, I couldn’t possibly add another book on my TBR” or “It’s on top of my TBR”, that usually means she’s not as excited about the book as you are.

DNF: Did Not Finish
There are times when a book annoys, bores or offends a reader so much that she won’t finish it. If a reader leaves a review that only has the DNF acronym, the story probably bored her. If she had a strong negative reaction to the story, she will tell you exactly why she DNF the book.

HEA: Happily Ever After
The couple’s commitment to each other at the end of the story is a guarantee in a romance novel. It is a SACRED promise. After all, the whole point of the story is how two people get together and find a way to stay together. How the hero and heroine overcome obstacles is how they will be there for each other no matter what.

HFN: Happy For Now
This could mean different things to readers. Some readers want the traditional happily ever after that includes marriage, kids, joint banking accounts and the whole shebang. They will say the ending of a romance novel is a HFN if the story didn’t show that. Other readers may use the term HFN because while the couple is in a committed relationship, there is still room for a second book (or a series of books) that shows the couple facing more obstacles that threaten their relationship.

H/h: Hero/heroine
Hero is H and heroine is h. I don’t know why the hero gets the capitalized letter. Don’t get me started on that rant.

TSTL: Too Stupid To Live
You know the character in horror movies who ignores all the warnings about mass murderers loose in the area and decides it’s a great time to camp in the woods, alone and unprotected? There’s a version of that in romance novels. It’s the character (usually the heroine, unfortunately) who makes illogical assumptions so she and hero don’t get together because of a misunderstanding. It’s the character (sigh, once again, usually the heroine) who shows no common sense when she takes action and the hero has to go save her. Those characters are what readers describe as Too Stupid To Live.

Do you know of additional acronyms romance readers use that should be on this list?

4 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide to Romance Reading Acronyms”

  1. I am flustered, I am an advid reader however there are acronyms that I canno figure out. Example BBW, MMF, FF ect…. some are easy say inside cover like bbw big beautiful woman , others are not so simple. Isthere some place gives all those aplace to unravel them one can google each individually but have to look each up. No single place has all those help!

    1. I wish there was one spot that listed all the acronyms! There are new labels and book trends popping up all the time, making a master list almost impossible. If you’re on GoodReads, try a romance discussion groups for help with acronyms and terminology. This is particularly helpful when dealing with subgenre-specific acronyms.

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