Tip Sheet

Writing for Twitter

Excerpted from the writings of Jim Stovall and his JProf blog.

As a journalist writing for Twitter, you are trying to inform the people who are following you. But, remember that you are part of an ongoing conversation, and you should feel free to react to what others have said as well as introducing original information into the conversation.

Here are some things to think about and some guidelines:

  • What's the point? Why are you posting? Have a goal in mind. Understand how you want people to feel when they have read you post.
  • Information is more important, and interesting, than opinion.
  • One or two points (of information, opinion, whatever) max. Not three. You'll quickly use up your space.
  • Think: subjects and verbs. Complete sentences are not always necessary, but complete thoughts are.
  • Emphasize verbs. Active, descriptive verbs. It's one of the basic truths of good writing.
  • As in headline writing, "to be" verbs can be understood rather than written.
  • Drop articles (a, an, and the) unless they are necessary for clarity.
  • Punctuate for clarity, not necessarily just to follow the rules.
  • Same thing goes for AP style. Often AP style rules will help with brevity, but sometimes they don't.
  • Use abbreviations only if you are sure your audience will immediately understand them. Don't use them just to show that you're hip to techno lingo.
  • Maintain a sense of professionalism. Using profanity, for example, may make you lose followers.
  • Ask and ye shall receive. One of the great things about Twitter (and the Web in general) is that there are people ready to respond, particularly if what you want is reasonable and interesting. A well-formed question will attract responses and followers.
  • Respect. Respect the language, your audience, and yourself. Honesty, courtesy, modesty, and civility are values in the Twitter society. Strive for them.

These are guidelines, not rules. They are meant to help you get started, not to lock you into a certain style or convention. Once you are on Twitter and a participant in the conversation, you can decide how to use Twitter effectively.