Writing for Twitter

Journalists who don’t Twitter are “crippling [their] online publishing effort,” says OJR’s Robert Niles.  In his view, Twitter is the ideal medium for breaking news and delivers information to readers more efficiently than RSS feeds.  But how do you write for Twitter?

Start by consulting this primer for Twitter beginners from J-Prof”s Jim Stovall.  He says it’s possible to do good journalism in 140 characters if you keep a few guidelines in mind.

First off, make sure you have something worthwhile to say.  Okay, that’s a “no-duh” but it’s essential if you want to enlist followers (and that’s pretty much the whole point of Twitter).  Among Stovall’s other suggestions:

  • 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.

The current “best practice” for making information on Twitter easier to track is to use hashtags (# followed by a word or phrase).  There are drawbacks, to be sure, but it’s something to keep in mind as you wade into the world of Tweets.  For what it’s worth, I’m just wading in myself. Follow me here.

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