Tips on writing tweets well 3/4

Using Twitter can improve your vocabulary and communication skills like nothing else on the planet.  When you’re burning to express something in just 140 characters, and working hard to ensure the meaning is crystal clear with no room for misinterpretation, you’re forced to think carefully and rake through all the words you’ve ever heard.  You put more effort into avoiding ambiguous messages than for in-person conversations, since the reader has no visual cues, and you might not be asked for clarification.  You may never find out someone jumped to the wrong conclusion. And you have no idea who might end up reading your message.  It might be no-one, or it could be dozens, hundreds or thousands of people.

Twitter is meant to be just 140 characters. Stick to it!

It is possible to write longer tweets, by using ‘TwitLonger’.  140 characters will appear on the tweet, and the reader clicks on it to see the rest of the text – similar to clicking on a link to an article or blog post.

But I can’t recommend strongly enough, to NOT write tweets longer than 140 characters.


People are on twitter because they want short messages. If they were wanted longer messages they wouldn’t be using twitter. It’s a no-brainer. Writing longer tweets gives the impression you think your views are worth more words than others.  Invest your own time in writing a more succinct tweet, rather than expecting readers to spend more of their time, reading your long message.

If the conversation includes a few people and there’s very little room to write a reply message, then it’s fine to reply in two tweets; labelling the first one 1/2 and the second 2/2. Take care to send the tweets in quick succession to ensure anyone who is following a lot of people, sees the tweets on their timeline together.  It’s also wise to ensure that each of the two tweets makes sense on it’s own, as it’s common for people to RT just one of the tweets, not both.

Abbreviating really helps create more interesting & clearer tweets, by ensuring there’s room for the vital words (messages).

  • I drop words that aren’t essential to the meaning.
  • Choose more succinct words.
  • Abbreviate words & expressions and employ commonly-used symbols whenever possible. “And” is almost always “&”, for example.  But I don’t use numbers instead of letters or use single letters to signify whole words (eg can’t w8t 2 c u), as I think it’s way too much of a pain for readers (as well as writers).  There’s a reason why standard languages evolved.  Really want other people to read what you have written? Put effort into writing as clearly as possible.
  • I avoid ditching punctuation, as it can look like an error instead of a space-saving measure, and can change meaning. In preference I’ll jam words up if necessary, by deleting spaces beside punctuation marks.

Abbreviations specific to Twitter. These always appear at the very start of the Tweet (unless in a sentence, eg “Please contact me by DM”):

  • RT – Retweet (forwarding someone else’s message on)
  • MT – Modified retweet (forwarding on someone else’s message with slight adjustments, eg abbreviation or removal of non-essentials such as hashtags, which don’t usually need a second lap.
  • DM – Direct Message (a message sent directly – privately – to another Twitter user; i.e. not viewable by anyone else)
  • HT – Hat Tip (used to acknowledge the original writer of a tweet).  Not especially common and I don’t use HT, instead I use “via” plus the writer’s twitter address.
  • And if I want to ensure someone specific sees a particular message being sent, it’s common to add the word ‘Ping’ and the person’s twitter address, to the end of the message.

Handy acronyms, used on Twitter (and elsewhere):

  • ARA – Animal Rights Activist (extremists)
  • BTW – By The Way
  • LOL – Laugh Out Loud. Yes I know, it meant “lots of love” for eons.  LOL and : ) to indicate a smiling face 🙂 are vital additions to messages sent in good humour, if there’s any risk of misinterpretation. (More information on “emoticons”, below.)  These ‘clarifiers’ are more often used when writing messages to women; as blokes are less likely to be offended by bluntness.
  • NIMBY – Not In My Backyard
  • S/B – Should Be
  • W/B – Would Be (or will be)
  • W/out – Without
  • SM – Social Media
  • FB – Facebook
  • LI – LinkedIn
  • YT – YouTube

But of course you don’t have to use any abbreviations if you don’t want to! Do whatever you find comfortable.

Commonly shortened words on Twitter:

Most of the abbreviations I use are self-explanatory in the context they are written in, so deciphering isn’t time-consuming for readers.

When abbreviating words, only shorten one or two per tweet, otherwise it’s too tedious for readers. And always make sure that the abbreviation couldn’t be misinterpreted as another word, in the context it’s written in.

  • Ag – Agriculture
  • Approx – Approximately
  • Biz – Business (I avoid abbreviations using “z”, but “bus” just doesn’t work as an abbreviation of business, obviously)
  • Co – Company
  • Disc – Discount
  • Esp – Especially
  • Est – Estimate, estimated etc
  • Incl – Including, included
  • Int – Interest, interesting, interested etc.  An irritatingly long word that is often the only word that really suits the Tweet.  Hard to shorten clearly – so abbreviation is best avoided.
  • Opp – Opportunity
  • Org – Organisation
  • O/S – Overseas
  • Pers – Person
  • Ppl – People
  • Poss – Possible, possibly etc
  • Suff – Sufficient, sufficiently etc
  • V – Very
  • W – With

Time-related abbreviations for Twitter:

  • Wk – Week
  • Mth – Month
  • Qtr – Quarter
  • Yr – Year
  • Biennial – Every second year (Triennial, etc)
  • PA – per annum

Standard country abbreviations, when necessary, eg Ire for Ireland.  I use “Aus” for Australia.  Since my messages are written in English, it should be clear it’s unlikely to mean Austria.  Others prefer “oz”, which of course has the benefit of one less character.  “Oz” just makes me think of Dorothy and the wizard, and visiting backpackers, however…

Standard measurement abbreviations, including:

  • KPH or K/HR– Kilometres Per Hour
  • $/Ha – Price (or cost) per Hectare

 Keyboard symbols often used on Twitter, across the top from left to right:

  • ~   Commonly used between a quote and the person who said it or wrote it.
  • @   Can be used instead of “at”, but not commonly used this way on Twitter.  It’s usually only used in front of someone’s twitter name (handle), eg @FionaLakeAus.
  • #   While hashtags are used in front of keywords, acronyms etc (explained elsewhere), they’re also used to highlight witticisms, usually at the end of a tweet. Eg #MurphysLaw.
  • $   Often used instead of words such as “money””, “dollars”, “cash”, etc.
  • %  Means “percentage”.
  • ^   Indicates increasing, or rising.
  • &   Means “and”
  • *   Is sometimes used either side of a word or statement to place emphasis on it, eg *party time*
  • Brackets ( )   Apart from standard use as brackets, see emoticons, below.
  • +   In addition to, or more. EG 10+ means “more than ten”.  10+ says exactly the same thing, but in much fewer characters!
  • =   Equals, or results in

Other useful keyboard symbols used on Twitter:

  • >   Greater than
  • <   Less than (I KNEW these two mathematical symbols would come in handy one day!  They save a lot of space in tweets.)
  • —> and <—    Three hyphens plus the “greater” or “less than” symbol make a handy arrow, for drawing attention to a conclusion or statement, or indicating ‘leads to’.

Emoticons* & other combinations of keyboard symbols/characters used to convey mood/tone on Twitter:

Emoticons are combinations of keyboard symbols/characters that turn into an image on smart phones. The best known emoticon is the colon plus brackets  : ) which turns into a smiley face on a mobile phone, and on my blog, like this: 🙂

  • If you Google “emoticons” you’ll find many lists – but the vast majority of emoticons included in these lists are rarely used by Australians, so it’s pointless trotting them out.
  • There are other combinations of keyboard symbols & characters used to influence the tone of a tweet, as well.  And of course you can make your own up!  Here’s a few of the most commonly used emoticons and symbols:
  • :  ) or :  –  )   Happy 🙂
  • : ( or : – (   Sad 🙁
  • ; )  Winking 😉
  • : o   Gasp, or about to scoff something 😮
  • :/   Uncertain/unsure or dismayed (this is used in Australia, but less common)
  • \o/     Throwing arms up in the air.  Happy, exasperated, panic etc, depending on context.
  • oO=   Head, stomach & legs; indicating someone flat on their back. Exhausted, shocked, bowled over, overfed, feeling lazy; etc, depending on context. (One of my favourites!)

Google”Twitter Abbreviations” and you’ll find acres of lists created by others.

However like the lists of emoticons, they are also full of uncommonly used terms.  Use these uncommon acronyms and abbreviations, and you’ll have readers scratching their heads.

As I think of them, I’ll add more abbreviations to this list that are commonly used by agribusiness tweeters. All ears to suggestions.  Send them to me via Twitter or via the Contact page, below.

*PS: Discovered when checking text, wordpress turns keyboard characters into emoticons too, so I had to go and insert spaces to stop it, where I wanted to show the symbols that created the emoticons!  Fortunately, computer programmes are still easily fooled.

Note: The majority of this blog post was written in November 2013. It has since been updated, and the above info is current as at February 2015.

Summary of blog posts with tips on how to best use Twitter: