“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”
- William Strunk, Jr. (1869–1946)
Professor William Strunk Jr, author of the first editions of The Elements of Style* (1918), was one of the first to publish a writing guide to English usage. His objective was to focus on a few essentials relating to the rules of usage and principles of composition. His statement “vigorous writing is concise” rings as true today, whether in writing a novel or getting your message across in 140 characters**.
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Thus, here are 10 lessons in writing for Twitter – inspired by an academic from the nineteen hundreds:
- Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal tweets.
- Omit needless words (same goes for use of excessive punctuation marks!!!!!!!).
- Drop the adjectives.
- If you are indecisive or unsure of what to tweet, rather say nothing.
- Use complete words, find shorter synonyms or at the very least recognisable abbreviations. DO NOT use text message lingo when tweeting. EVER.
- Do not break your tweet in 2.
- When asking a question, choose either rhetoric or open-ended questions as they are more conducive for generating feedback tweets.
- Have purpose when tweeting. Know to whom your tweet is meant for and what you are expecting in response to that tweet (if at all). If you want someone to click on a link, tell them so accordingly
- When referencing a link in your tweet, make use of url shorteners to help you make the most of 140 characters.
- Lastly, a point I never get tired of hearing – to borrow from The Cluetrain Manifesto’s 95 Theses: “Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.” Read your tweets out loud before posting. Do they sound uncontrived?
So, now over to you – what do you find works well when composing a tweet?
- You can read the complete version of Strunk Jr’s The Elements of Style (1918) here.
- Have you ever asked yourself the question: Why 140 Characters? Check it out: http://www.140characters.com/2008/11/13/hello-world/