How Do I Fit That Into 140 Characters?

If you hang around my blog, you probably realise I’m keen on Twitter. I play regular Twitter games and interact with a lot of my writer friends there.

The biggest challenge that Twitter presents is that of fitting what you want to say in 140 characters. It’s really not very much!

Here’s an example of 140 characters (including spaces) from the @ScriboTweeters game I played this week:

The trouble with having an open mind, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it. ―Diggers #bestliterarylines

So, 140 characters roughly translates to 20-25 words. Depends on the length of your sentence, it’s going to be one or two sentences. And don’t forget that the more punctuation there is, in dialogue, for example, the more characters are used up.

Let’s look at a few tips for making the most of your space on Twitter:

Use common abbreviations or contractions

Substitute ‘&’ for ‘and’, ‘u’ for ‘you’, etc. Use text-talk like BTW, IMHO, etc. Yes, I know some of you, especially the writers, will cringe at these kind of shortcuts. But if you are merely interacting with friends, personally I don’t think it matters. Language evolves over time, and text-speak is just a type of language, not a judgement on your intelligence!

If you have a long quote, stick it on an image

This can be a good tip for author promo materials, and writing games. If the quote you want to use is too long, put it on a pretty picture. This has the added bonus that Tweets with pictures are generally more likely to catch people’s eyes.

For example, here’s one my friend Kristen made:

CrR_dLvWcAE4tM0

Shorten numbers

If you’re typing numbers, don’t put ‘seven’ – put ‘7’.

Links to URLs

When you post a web address in a tweet, Twitter now automatically shortens it. So the length of the web address is not the number of characters that will be used.

Check out this support page for more info.

Learn to be economical with words

In the same way one uses filler words in writing – that, then, just, really, almost – you may do it on Twitter. There is nothing like trying to tweet a line of your current work in progress to see if you use filler words!

Quote other people’s tweets

When you retweet someone else’s tweet, you get the option to add your own commentary, called a quote. Twitter treats their tweet as if it were a link, and you get the remaining characters to write in. This gets almost double the information in a tweet.

Spaces count

Every space you use counts as a character. If you delete a few, the tweet will still be readable.

 

So, that’s my few tips for making the most out of tweets. Got any more?

 

10 Comments

  1. I do find people respond better to pictures, which is why I use so many in my tweets even if I don’t add quotes to them. But yes, I find that when playing games and doing promos the adding what I want to say to a picture not only draws people but it allows for me to say more.

    I have to add though that a picture counts as like (guessing) 20 words, so add your picture first so you know how much space you have for a tweet. It can be frustrating to write out a tweet that fits and then add the picture only to find you now have to chop off words.

  2. Good post! I use images at times and also make sure to use numbers instead of spelling them out. I try to be economical with word choice as well.

    Omitting spaces is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to tweets, though. I’m not a huge fan of text shortcuts like & and u and such, either, so I don’t use them.

    I also use Bitly to shorten my links, since it saves me a bit of space for words or hashtags.

  3. Combining tweets with/on images is one of the best ways to tweet. As you’ve said visual content gets more recognition on Twitter and other social media. To shorten my links I like using Bit.ly, that way I can track the level of engagement to a particular URL.

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