How To Tweet Like A Pro in 140 Characters—Or Less
Twitter’s character limit is tight, but with the right guidance, you can tweet like a champ and even create the occasional Twoosh (perfect, 140-character tweet).
By Lance Ulanoff
June 28, 2011 02:00pm EST
I’ve been reading around the Web how Twitter actually makes you a better writer—or at least a more adroit copywriter, meaning that you can write in 140 character sound bites. Every sentence is a complete idea with a minimum of fluff and needless words.It’s no wonder. Crafting a good 140 character tweet on Twitter is truly an art. The first part of successful Twitter communication is figuring out how to get the most out of (or into) your 140 character allotment. I do not, by the way, prescribe to the notion of tweet extenders. If you insist on writing more than 140 characters, then Twitter is not for you. I’d suggest Facebook or a blog.
I produced this guide sometime ago, but have decided to update it for the latest generation of Twitter members. When I first wrote this, there were over 70 million Twitter users, but now there are, by some estimates, at least 300 million.
Remember, these are not rules, but simple tips that could help you get that brilliant bit of Twitter prose into a tweet that not only stays under 140 characters, but allows room for your followers to retweet and add their own comments. By the way, when you hit exactly 140 characters in a tweet, feel free to reward yourself with a silent “Twoosh!”
1) Don’t Multi-ReTweet: Twitter is a great community where members are more than willing to credit other tweeters with a great idea or link, but sometimes it goes too far. I’ve seen “via” as many as four Twitter account names in one tweet. That’s a lot of characters. If you’re running low on characters, cut out some of the credits and leave just the original poster.
2) Use Word Shortcuts: “With” becomes “w/.” “Love” becomes “Luv.” Retweeting becomes “RT-ing.” “Characters” becomes “Chars.” The last probably only works in the context of this tweet. My Point is that you have to be creative.
3) Drop Vowels: English majors and professors, avert your eyes. As long as it’s still readable, you can do things like turn “classroom” into “classrm”.
4) Contractions: The other night I was watching the move “True Grit” (2010 version) where virtually all the characters speak in a stiff, oddly formal way. How did they do it? By never using contractions. You want to do the opposite. “It is” becomes “it’s” and “can not” becomes “can’t.” Not a lot of savings, but every character and space counts. Plus, the tweet will avoid the halting “True Grit” cadence.
5) No More “And”s: “And” can always become “+”. That’s two characters back to you!
6) Omit Needless Characters and Bylines: Too many sites generate shareable tweets full of useless garbage, like dashes, spaces, and more than one attribution (if people follow the link, they will see the byline). You can cut some or all of that.
7) Drop Pronouns: One of the easiest to lose is “that.” So “the website that I luv” becomes “the website I luv”. Try it; it works.
8) Omit Needless Words: This is one of the first lessons I learned in journalism and writing. Seriously, you’d be shocked at how many people cram in extra articles (“the,” “an”) into a 140 post.
9) Kill “I”: You can make your tweets more declarative and shorter if you occasionally drop the “I”. And, yes, “you” can become “u”. In fact, I’d say there are numerous character-saving, texting tricks you can apply in the Twitter realm.
10) Turn Words into Numbers: “Two” becomes “2” and “one” becomes “1”.
11) Remove Extra Spaces: Twitter counts double spaces between words. Make sure your retweets and your own tweets are not full of extra spaces.
12) Rewrite: As long as you give them credit for the link, a requisite @[twittername], and do not change the meaning of the post, you’re in good shape.
13) Shorten Links: Most people use link shorteners, but not every link reducer is alike. TinyURL is good, so is bit.ly. Twitter’s own internal link shortener creates some of the leanest links. If you’re retweeting a tweet with an expanded URL, don’t forget to shrink it.
14) Drop the period: The last period at the end of your tweet is unnecessary. People will know you’re done.
15) Show Hash Tag Control: The words in your tweet serve as pretty strong keywords in and of themselves. If you need a hash to better define your topic, like “#mobile,” be sure to find the shortest keyword and use just one hash tag per tweet.
Bonus Challenge: If you’re going to retweet, try to add your own personal comment. My format is always “Me: [say something interesting here].” Of course, this means that the original tweet has to be even shorter. Tough, but doable, and your followers will thank you for it.