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How to Write in 140 Characters or Less

How to Write in 140 Characters or Less

How to Write in 140 Characters or Less

    On Wednesday, I wrote a set of tips on writing (http://is.gd/wlJ). I had in mind business and similar situations where solid writing counts.

    Joel, also of Lifehack, linked to the post on his blog (http://is.gd/wlU), saying I should do a guide to writing in 140 characters or less.

    With Twitter fast becoming an important marketing tool – maybe THE important marketing tool (http://is.gd/wlZ) – there’s something to that.

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    Being able to express yourself, clearly and forcefully, in less than the 140 characters allowed by Twitter (and SMS) is no small thing!

    Being able to do it with style and panache, to present yourself in all your greatness, to make people want to know more, is harder still.

    But worth it. If markets are conversations, you need to be where the conversations are happening. And Twitter is that place right now.

    Sure, maybe Twitter’s a fad. Maybe, like Friendster, it will collapse under its own coolness and people will move on. We’re not there yet.

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    And even if (when?) it does pass, as fads eventually do, the 140-character message probably won’t – it’s too well-suited to mobile screens.

    Writing Really, Really Short

    If concision is the key to good writing, learning to write for Twitter should place you among the greats. Already great writing is emerging.

    Hemingway, whose 6-word short story – "For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn" – is hailed as a clear ancestor to the form, would have loved it.

    But how do you get there? How do you strip your expression down to its very roots in a way that’s still meaningful, still worth reading?

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    Here are a few tips, from my participation on Twitter and what I know about writing overall. Short writing still needs to be good writing.

    • Every character counts, so use strong verbs and a minimum of adverbs – you just can’t afford to say in two words what you can say in one.
    • Once again, avoid "university words". Almost every long word in English has a short, blunt word that means the same thing. Use it instead.
    • Forget about breaking your thoughts into two posts. You have no control over how your post will get read or whether they will stay together.
    • Write first, then rewrite. It’s hard when you can feel that 140-character limit breathing down your neck. Spill it all out and then trim.
    • You can usually cut "that" and "which". "The toy train that my sister got for Christmas" can be "The toy train my sister got for Christmas."
    • Take your cue from Spanish (and Obama) and eliminate personal pronouns. "I am going to the Apple store" can be "Going to the Apple Store".
    • Write short sentences. They stand out more. You share a page with dozens of posts. Many short sentences looks like something worth reading.
    • Use punctuation! Many will tell you to rely on forceful words, not exclamation marks, but when words are limited, punctuation adds impact.
    • Be personal. Short posts are very conversational and almost intimate. That’s something business doesn’t do well, but on Twitter, it counts.
    • Get to the point. Say what you want me to do and why I should do it. You have no room to build anticipation – cut straight to the chase.

    Lots of companies are paying attention to Twitter and the services emerging in its wake. Nobody knows quite what to do with it yet, though.

    Which is fine. That just means there’s plenty of room for creative people to do what they do best – come up with innovative ways to connect.

    Get in there, follow some of the top Twitterers, and pay close attention to how they craft their posts. And remember a last couple things:

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    • Humor works. 140 characters is well suited to the snarky jab, the aphorism, the epigram. Brevity is, after all, the soul of wit. And Tweets.
    • The best you can do in 140 characters is entice – leave the sale for longer copy. Get their attention and give them someplace good to go.

    Do you have any other advice for tweeters and messaging mavens? Let us know in the comments – this is all new, I know I’ve missed something.

    I’ll admit, this post was hard to write! If you appreciate the effort, please digg it, Stumble it!, or bookmark it on del.icio.us. Or all 3!

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    Last Updated on February 18, 2019

    Why It’s Never Too Late To Redefine Yourself

    Why It’s Never Too Late To Redefine Yourself

    The ability to reinvent and redefine yourself is a bold, daring and purposeful choice. It doesn’t just happen. You have to make a conscious, intentional choice and then follow through.

    If the thought of forging a new path, changing habits, thought patterns and your inner circle of friends scares you – you’re not alone. Change can be a very scary thing. It takes courage, fortitude and a bit of faith to decide to shed your old self and don a new persona. However, it is one of the most critical processes one must repeatedly endure in the pursuit of destiny. Change unlocks new levels of potential.

    The Need for Change

    Everyday when we wake up, we make a decision. We decide to follow our routine or we decide to go off script and shake things up a bit. For those who are creatures of habit, routine is comfortable, easy and produces very little stress. The problem with this is, after a while you stop growing.

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    We all reinvent ourselves at some point in our lives. It is absolutely necessary to achieve certain levels of success.

    Reflect back on who you were as a teenager and then who you were at 25. Those are two very different people. Most of us are completely different. Your thought patterns changed, your appearance, job, level of education and even your friends– changed. We like to refer to this as “growing up” or maturing and consider it to be one of life’s natural progressions. However the changes you made were purposeful and deliberate.

    This process must be a lifelong and continuous cycle. You are never too old to refresh yourself.

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    Happy_old_man

      Signs It’s Time to Redefine

      “Just as established products and brands need updating to stay alive and vibrant, you periodically need to refresh or reinvent yourself.”– Mireille Guiliano

      So how do you know when it’s time for a system upgrade? There are signs along the way that alert you that it is time for an overhaul. The first sign is the feeling of being stuck. If you feel like you are in a rut, you’re bored with life or you need some newness and excitement, a self reinvention may be in order. Re-evaluate your life vision and your goals. Is that vision still valid and are your goals consistent with your vision and–are they achievable? If you are off course, it’s time for a change. If you are not moving forward and making progress, it’s time for a change.

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      In life, there’s no such thing as neutrality–you’re either moving forward or you are moving backward. Time constantly moves forward and if you are standing still, you are actually losing ground. No matter your age or stage in life– there is always room for improvement.

      “You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” ~C. S. Lewis

      The second sign that you are due for a change is the occurrence of major life events in which change is forced upon you. Getting married, starting a new job, being promoted, ending a relationship, becoming a parenting or relocating are all prime opportunities to completely overhaul your life.

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      When these major shifts occur in your life–you have to shift with them. You can’t have a single mentality and have a successful marriage. You can’t remain selfish and irresponsible, and raise a healthy, well-adjusted child. You can’t be promoted to a supervisory position and keep the same subordinate attitude. Each level of success requires something different from you.

      Aronld in Predator

        Consider, for a moment, Arnold Schwarzenegger. People may have different opinions about his character and some of his life choices, but he is a master at reinventing himself. He achieved the ultimate success as a professional body builder by earning the title “Mr. Universe” three times. He then earned a tremendous amount of fame and fortune in the entertainment industry making action/adventure films. And in his latest role, he served two terms as the Governor of California. He succeeded as a professional body builder, a film star and a politician. Each role required massive amounts of change, commitment, strength and hard work.

        And if Arnold can do it…so can you!

        Featured photo credit: BK via flickr.com

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