The brevity of Twitter

August 14, 2012

Less is more. Make every word count. Feverishly hammered into my brain while in college, these mantras are still encoded in my behavior as a writer. Maybe all the hammering is why I find Hemingway’s writing style so appealing. His penchant for brevity, omitting extraneous information to strengthen the story, is something I lust for. I am constantly pushing myself both personally and professionally (death to verbose emails) to keep my writing to the point. This hammering is probably also why Twitter has become one of my favorite social networks.

The best stories are always told simply and clearly. Twitter is no different. It forces you to make the 140 characters count. Truthfully, 85 to 100 characters usually do the trick and are much more retweet friendly, but it is downright frustrating to do sometimes. Here are a few tips to keep from sounding social media hack:

  • Limit the use of abbreviations. It’s almost as disheartening as reading texts like “where r u?” or “LOL.” (I have a personal aversion to LOL.) I know we live in the world of shorthand, but sometimes it just sounds bad.
  • Use links, or a similar shortened link service, to track analytics for your tweets. This allows you to see how engaged your followers are and discern your most popular content.
  • Think before you tweet. Given the immediacy of the social network, it’s easy to quickly type out a tweet and be done. Think of your readers and audience for a second. Would they care or even be interested?
  • Lead with the good stuff. The journalistic inverted pyramid rings true even when it comes to social media. Start off with the most important pieces of information. Then focus on making them short, clever and compelling.
  • When mentioning people, use a conversational tone. Nobody wants to talk some business drone. Unless maybe you’re a bot.
  • Sometimes your tweets warrant hashtags. They add context and often clarify what you mean. Hashtags are often created around events and are searched or followed by others.

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