For many, Twitter marks a movement away from formal language. The death of English as we know it. Soon we’ll all write in emoji. Grammar and spelling rules will fall and anarchy will reign! But what if Twitter is *gulp* helping our writing? As with most things, it’s a matter of perspective.
out the Bulk
Limiting yourself to 140 characters may result in some questionable acronyms. But, it challenges you to, above all things, choose your words carefully. No one is reading tweet (2/2), so you better make sure your language is concise and accurate. Anything less is a waste of a tweet.
Even without a character limit, your writing should come across as clean as possible. It increases the chance of readers retaining your message (and it saves money). Consider Marcia’s Tighten This! game. She shows each week how to cut language, but retain meaning. Next time you write, consider your tweets. Where can you cut? What can you change for the better?
Reveiw, Reveiew, Review
Once you send your tweet into the world, you can’t change it. There are no edits; only deletes. Because of this, we tirelessly review each word for misspellings, grammatical slips, and readability. We read, reread, and have our friends read. We don’t post until we know what’s going out there is the best representation of ourselves.
Now, I don’t have to point out the importance of reviewing documents. We all know that nothing comes out clean the first time. But what we take for granted is our “take-backsies” mentality towards documentation. “Someone else will catch it.” “I can always update it later.” We lose that sense of finality. By relearning it through our tweets, we can approach documents with more pride and scrutiny.
Know What’s Relevant
On Twitter, we call them trending topics. You know, that one thing everyone and their brother is talking about. Avid tweeters jump on trending topics and other conversations around Twitter. They interact with their audience to find out what’s important to them.
Too often, writers forget their audience is a living, breathing person. We write just to have it written. We put it on paper and let it die in the corner somewhere. How is that helping anyone? Next time you write a document, give it a little more thought. Is this a trending topic? Whose opinion should I look for? What will help the reader?
Twitter thrives off of connecting information. From user mentions to hashtags, related information is never far apart. Authorship allows readers to locate the source. Tags allow readers to research the topic across the web. No post is an island.
Documents on the other hand, well, don’t always have those connections. Finding related information? It’s a headache. And authorship? Don’t even try. Why are we so afraid of owning our content and connecting it? Maybe we’re stuck in pre-web mentality where each source stood on its own. Maybe we’re scared of being wrong or outdated. Either way, taking a page from Twitter’s book would do some good. Help readers find accurate, helpful information, instead of hiding it and leaving them in the dark.
Twitter gets flack for its impact on modern English. But in the right hands, it can be an influence of good. Next time you write a document, imagine you’re tweeting it. What would you change?
About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit her bio page.