Twitter’s 280-characters just too many? Here’s a way to cope…

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    Twitter logo: Picture: Pixabay

    I am in two minds about Twitter’s decision to allow 280-character tweets.
    One the one hand, when only 140 characters were allowed, I often felt that I could do with just an extra few characters to get in an extra hashtag, or a telling phrase.

    And I think that the imposed brevity meant people often substituted a short hashtag for actual meaning, as seen here:

    Looking for inspiration during #NaNoWriMo2017? These classic authors have you covered.

    What is #NaNoWriMo2017 anyway? Turns out it is National Novel Writing Month. That tweet would be better like this:

    Looking for inspiration during National Novel Writing Month? These classic authors have you covered. #NaNoWriMo2017

    The extra characters which Twitter now allows mean that it is now possible to put in just a little extra background, where needed, without resorting to mysterious and irritating hashtags.

    On the other hand, the enforced brevity of the 140-character tweet meant people were forced to do a little editing, which is never a bad thing. These two tweets are instructive:


    Presidency says Pres #Zuma has no program for #FreeHigherEducation and is still reviewing the Fees Commission report. (117 characters)


    The Presidency says President Jacob Zuma has no plans to announce a programme for free higher education until he reviews the report of a commission studying the feasibility of such a programme. (193 characters)

    That first one is so much better! It is short, pithy and conversational, while the second one is clunky and unwieldy.

    Sadly, I can’t edit other people’s tweets (or my own, come to that). But I have come to a personal style guide for my own tweets in the brave new lots-of-character world:

    Stick the original 140 characters (or thereabouts) for the “meat”of the tweet and use the extra characters for hashtags.

    That imposes the discipline of editing, while allowing a little breathing space for context. Let’s see if I can stick to it!

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