13 Style and Grammar Tips for Twitter Success
1. Compose Tweets with CareMy high school English teacher used to say, “If you’re counting the words you write, you’re not writing the words that count.” He never met Twitter. Now, not only do we count our words, we have to count our characters. Proofread your tweets, read them aloud when possible, and leave enough characters for an old-school “RT” retweet. Allow followers to amplify your message with minimal effort (see tip #3).
2. Tweets Start with Words, not PeriodsSomewhere about halfway through Twitter’s young life, users wised up to the fact that not all their followers were seeing @ replies. As a workaround, people began adding periods to open a Tweet, so all their followers would see the message. Here’s the problem: more often than not, a period to open a tweet is a signal that the message is either going to be a snarky complaint or brag, neither of which is ideal. Instead of tacking a period to the beginning of your tweet, rearrange your message.
3. The Real Limit is Less than 140 CharactersThe real limit is 140 minus “RT @YourName:” Give followers enough leftover characters (~20) for an old-school retweet. Heck, leave even more characters so people can add a comment. The more retweets, the more conversation, the more engagement. Again, make it easy for your followers to spread your message.
4. Avoid ShorthandSocial media is not a private instant messaging service. That means no LOL, RU, BRB, NP, etc. Shorthand or insider slang is acceptable in a one-on-one online conversation with a friend. But in a public forum, it can be off-putting. And if your tweet gets picked up and shared by a news organization, industry leader, or celebrity, you’d be better served to clearly spell out your meaning. I even prefer “HaHa” over “LOL” to “laugh” online. There’s nothing funny about ROFL.
5. The Difference Between RT, MT, and a Native RetweetCall me old fashioned, but I prefer the old-school “RT” retweet.
Say, for example, I tweeted:
Be careful about changing meaning:
See, we all love freshwater:
If this is all too much, stick with the native retweet.
6. Shorten URLsShorten the links in your tweets using Bit.ly or Google Url Shortener. These shortening services will buy you characters (depending on the platform from which you’re tweeting) and help you track clicks. And even if you’re not tracking your links, at least you’ll look like you are. Think of each tweet as a mini job interview. Dress your tweets for the success they’re seeking.
7. Tag Relevant Twitter HandlesWhenever possible, tag people in your tweets, even if it’s a celebrity who is unlikely to engage. Tags help add context for your followers, tags show that you’ve composed your tweet with care, and tags are more likely to keep the conversation growing, right @JustinVerlander?
8. Avoid Connecting Third-Party Apps when PossibleThird-party apps don’t play well across platforms. Of the red flags on Twitter, nothing is more glaring than a shortened link coming from Facebook. You might as well add a prefix to your link: DON’T CLICK ME. EVER.
9. The @ Symbol is SilentThe @ symbol is for replying and tagging only; it does not serve the dual purpose of replacing the word “at.”
The following tweet isn’t what you might think:
Include the word “at,” as in:
You don’t want this tweet:
To be read as:
10. Set off Links with the Appropriate PunctuationThere’s no perfect solution. A colon is probably the most grammatically correct, a simple period is probably the most visually appealing, and occasionally an em dash adds context. However you choose to set off your links, be consistent.
11. Use Vertical Breaks and Brackets to Clarify and Include Notes for ReadersClarity is essential for engagement with a tweet. When you’re linking to a YouTube clip, make it clear to your followers that they’ll see a video when they click the link. This increases clicks and builds trust for future tweets. The best way to notify followers of your intention is to note the content source with a vertical break or brackets.
12. Single Quotation Marks are Acceptable Replacements for ItalicsSince it’s not possible to add text formatting to Twitter, single quotes are an acceptable substitution if you need to grammatically use italics to make your point.