As of now I’ve got about ~90 followers on Twitter. Oh wait…91! I haven’t employed any tricks to get thousands of people to auto-follow my profile so that number’s relatively low. I hope my “tweets” provide some value to followers. I use the application primarily as an Internet bookmarking method. However, that’s not why I continue to post. Twitter has much more value to me as a learning tool.
A minority of Internet users even have Twitter accounts. The last figure I read indicated about 19% (link). For the other 81%, you should know that Twitter’s essentially a public billboard for short text messages. You can follow others’ messages or have others follow yours. How short? Exactly 140 characters. That includes spaces, punctuation, letters and numbers. Any characters over 140 will truncate when you publish the message.
Vocabulary Gone Foul
The 140-character limit presents a real challenge when trying to communicate a complete thought. Many users employ the mutated form of language called textese. Never use this corrupt shorthand. Who cares that it’s commonplace. Refrain from using textese on your phone or any other communication device for that matter. I’ll defer to linguists to explain the professional and cultural perils of degenerate language.
Less is Much More
Instead, use Twitter to refine your ability to use concise, efficient language. Can you compress a whole story into one simple, effective sentence? Copyblogger (a well-known blog on copywriting) ran a contest last year to see who could tell the best story in 140 characters or less via Twitter. While the contest is over, the challenge is not. See how much you can do with as few words as possible. Remember not to use textese, or even abbreviations.
If you do this more than once and make it a regular habit, your written expression will be more potent. You’ll determine what words and phrases are truly necessary, and which are not. Regardless of technical innovations, principles of effective communication will stay the same.
Punchy, Pithy Tweets
Look through books or web site collections of famous quotes for great examples. Many of them will qualify for the 140-character limit. Do you know of anyone on Twitter who writes very well within that parameter? Do they avoid the abbreviations and textese? Send me a link or comment and let me know. If you plan on attempting this exercise yourself – using Twitter to improve your writing – send me a direct message so I can follow you and watch your progress.