Note to Twitter: Keep it Brief

Twitter logo on brick background

Twitter: don’t fix what ain’t broke

Some argue that social media has set back our writing and speaking skills and blasted our attention spans back to the Stone Age. Grammar? Punctuation? Proper abbreviations? Who cares, right?

Maybe. But communication coaches, writing instructors, and others who deal daily with clients and students who can’t find the point, let alone get to it, have a secret appreciation for Twitter.

Twitter forces the issue. Get out your message, and do it fast. Since 2006, Twitter has provided a platform for those who possess enough mastery of the language to make a point or pitch in a mere 140 characters. It has also outed those who can’t, or who don’t really have much to say.

Now comes word that Twitter might be rethinking its iconic character count. First reported by the tech outlet Re / code, word has spread fast about possible plans to allow longer tweets. This is a bad idea, like lowering the rims for those who can’t dunk.

The Chicago Tribune reminds us of how Twitter evolved and where the character count originated, while Slate adds more about the new direction the company may be considering.

Hopefully the watchword will continue to be brevity. Adept Twitter users have learned what editors have drilled into young reporters since news was carved on stone tablets. People are harried and in a rush. The kids, the car, the house and the dog all demand attention. And oh, yes, there’s also the boss.

There’s a time for a writer to build anticipation and ease into a story, and a time to deliver fast.

A good tweet is like the opening paragraph of a good news story. It delivers useful or interesting information, is timely and credible, and, above all, gets to the point quickly.

It has to, as the writer only gets so much space. At least for now.





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