Twitter made me a better writer

I have been writing professionally since college…over a decade ago. My best opportunities for honing my writing came from limiting word or character count – whether on grant applications, articles, or even forms. So it is not surprising to me that the character count on twitter helped improve my writing. If it hasn’t already done the same for you, here are some tips and tricks for getting your idea across in 140 characters or less.

1. Link out. Use blogs or other spaces where ideas and information are expressed fully. 🙂 When linking, provide enough keywords with the link that people know to follow the link and what they will get when there. Which keywords? Who, what, where, when, why – right? What audience(s) is it for? Is it location specific? Does it have a deadline? What folksonomy category is it in?

2. Get mathy. Use punctuation adjustments to trim down character counts. Works when you have a solid statement within 15 characters of 140. Turn and into + or & etc. Turn a series of item comma space item comma space and item comma space into item+item+item. Note, you can also quickly cut out articles: a, an, and the are often unnecessary.

3. Love action. As a poet, I was taught to put the power into verbs and nouns, not descriptors. Trim out superfluous words and put the energy and attention on the noun and verb. Who is it and what are they doing or being? What is the test for superfluous words? If you remove them, is it still clear what you mean? Can you combine or reword it more effectively? I often edit out the use of helper verbs. “I tried to tell Liz about shortening verb strings” can be more simply stated as “I told Liz about shortening verb strings.”

4. Crossword size. After a decade in academia, I tend to know more big words than small ones. It took me some time to figure out the short word equivalents. If you are good at crosswords, you have a strong short word vocabulary. Turn utilize back into use please. Shorten is better as trim, etc.

5. Abbreviate or contract. I hesitate to suggest it, as abbreviations can be misunderstood when speaking across different audiences. But IM and text messaging rang in the era of abbreviated dialog. If you find pronouns to be critical to include, shorten our to r and your to ur. Again, you can get mathy and say be4 or B4 instead of before. I suggest you look at the other options before falling back to abbreviation, but it really depends on your audience and their comfort with such practices. What are they doing?

Test to be sure, if read aloud, your tweet is understandable with the abbreviations.

What other methods do you use to trim your expressions into tweets?