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10 Writing Tips for Twitter

Posted on 11.12.2013

:: By David Tucker, ::

High finance pundits may argue about Twitter’s stock price, but there is no doubt in the blogosphere that the service is valuable. If you are using it merely to share your lunch choice with friends or whom you encountered while shopping, you may already be fully equipped to use the 140 characters effectively. However, if you want to utilize this Internet tool fully, you might want to read on. Whether to inspire action or change opinion, Twitter can do so, and has demonstrated its power, but it requires a bit of skill and care to accomplish this to full effect.

Know why you are Tweeting:

Twitter has been a pivotal element in the outcome of several election cycles, a few revolutions and the burgeoning success of a number of celebrities. It has also quickened the downfall of some public figures. You can use it to inform swiftly, to inspire, to spur, to sell, to compel or to deter. Think first of exactly what it is that you are trying to accomplish. A Tweet, as with any message, that has a clear purpose motivating it, will have more impact from the start.

Use the right word:

The compressed format of Twitter is closer to haiku than to regular prose. As with haiku, the writer needs to find the right word for the right idea. This requires access to a solid and varied vocabulary. Ideally, this vocabulary should be at your fingertips. You should, in the best of all possible worlds, have acquired this vocabulary through years of reading the classics of literature, subscribing to literate magazines such as The Atlantic, or The New Yorker, listening to NPR, or the BBC World Service. Even if you missed the memo, there are still tools you can use. You should keep a thesaurus app or site at your elbow, in physical or virtual form. Additionally, when you do encounter a word that really packs a lot of meaning, take note of it and learn to use it. The Merriam Webster Vocabulary Builder is a new favorite of mine.

Use the shortest word:

This is almost like a Scrabble skill; finding shorter words that can convey the same thing as a longer one. This fits with Hemingway’s rules of writing; never use a long or Latinate word when you can substitute a short, powerful word, often with an Anglo-Saxon root. There is a source for such words at Thsrs, where you can type in a long word that you really want to use, and find a shorter alternative.

Condense your thoughts:

Consider the novel outline, also attributed to Hemingway, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Although his authorship may be apocryphal, this gem should inspire current Twitterers. At its best, Twitter may revive the art of the epigram, that laser-focused expression of a deep, insightful, or humorous truth in a very few words. The Greeks and Romans were masters of this; think of the wit of Martial. However, practitioners of terse and pithy phrase making are found in all parts of the world and eras. Think of Ben Franklin and Mark Twain, and even Chairman Mao (“women hold up half the sky” is wonderfully evocative).

Compress via technology:

You can shorten lengthy URLs (yes, sadly, each character counts!) by using, a service that redirects clicks and keeps a count of them for you as well. You can also send readers to a somewhat longer comment via Twitlonger.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, send a picture with a caption, via Twitpic.

Abbreviate everything possible:

There are several glossaries of text-speak acronyms and abbreviations out there, and they are helpful. However, I am hesitant to recommend them, in the interests of avoiding polluting the Twitter-sphere with such stale linguistic tropes.  Here are a few from the lists that seem most useful for Tweets with a somewhat higher purpose, such as sales, opinion modification, or a call-to-action:

411 (information)

3q (thank you)

E1 (everyone)

Enuf (enough)

Exp (experience) 

Feat (featuring)

Idd (indeed)

Mng (manage)

Mo (more)

Nething (anything)

Obvi (obviously)

Ofc (of course)

Posbl (possible)

Rly (really)

S (yes)

sw or (s/w software)

srs (serious)

tech (technology)

tho (though)

tlkin (talking)

twd (toward)

tx (thanks)

txt (text)

vid (video)

w/ (with)

w8 (wait)

wht (what)

xep (except)

xit (exit)

xlnt (excellent)

xmute (transmute)

y (why)

yrs (years)

Yes, these are more boring than the ones that express anger or insult others’ intelligence, but they are more useful for writers.

Twitter is a tool with nearly unlimited potential in so many fields.  Know what you want to accomplish, choose your words well, emulate the brevity of the masters of the epigram, and use the available technology and slang, to squeeze maximum meaning into minimum characters for highly effective Tweets .

About the author: 

Article by David Tucker – a professional editor and blogger. David currently works with – content management and writing service, which provides high quality writing tips for students and academic professionals. David loves to spend his free time outside with friends and family. 

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