Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Do You Speak Twitter?

"May I offer you a Twittonary?"

"What's a 'Twittonary'?"

"A dictionary for Twitter, of course."

Since Twitter took off in 2006, thousands of users have started micro-blogging. The popularity of Twitter has encouraged its users to create unique terms for Twitter language (twitterspeak) to describe people on Twitter (tweeps, tweeple), the Twitter community (twittersphere), and updates (tweets). For a full list of Twitter Terms, check out 'Twitterspeak: 66 Twitter Terms You Don't Need to Know' or ''.

Learning the language of Twitter is helpful, especially if you are just getting started and feeling a little confused. However, what's more important is to understand the writing style of Twitter, which could be called Twitter Style.

If an AP Style guidebook existed for Twitter, I think it would include the following guidelines to help users make the most of their micro-interactions:

  1. Posts must be written in 140 characters or less. Brevity is crucial.
  2. Capitalize when appropriate. Writing in lowercase does not save characters and it makes for confusing messages.
  3. When possible, use proper punctuation. This will ensure that your message is clear.
  4. Writing in fragments is acceptable.
  5. Avoid using "text-message" language, such as OMG (Oh my God), 4U (for you), and CUL8R (see you later).
  6. Appropriate abbreviations and contractions are preferred.
  7. Symbols (&, =, @) are allowed in order to save characters.
  8. If possible, avoid misspelling words for the sake of brevity (such as nite, thru, foto). This is a personal preference, but if you have to shorten your words too much, Twitter may not be the right forum for a particular thought.
  9. Use an asterick symbol to designate italics. Such as, 'Jenny, you *must* see this movie.'
  10. If you really want to emphasize something, write is all caps, but use caps sparingly.

In addition to understanding the terminology and style of Twitter, there are also great resources for learning more about using Twitter effectively to communicate. One of my favorites is a post by Jeff Sexton called '7 Principles of Web 2.0 Copy - Twitter Style!' I recommend paying special attention to his thoughts on authenticity, sharing and speed.

To view my posts on Twitter, visit me at I don't always follow my own rules, but at least I know when I'm breaking them.


Kelli Matthews said...

I would add Twitter does not equal Facebook status updates. Don't start your update with " doing blah blah blah" or speak in third person. It's the sure sign of a twitter newbie... a twewbie, maybe? :-)

Angela Seits said...

Good point, Kelli. Twitter's tag line - "What are you doing?" is actually misleading. Unlike Facebook status updates, Twitter updates are all about conversation...Maybe they'll add "twewbie" to the Twittonary. Try saying that three-times-fast! :-)