Advertising
Advertising

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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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?

    Advertising

    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:

    Advertising

    • 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!

    More by this author

    How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    Trending in Communication

    1 10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life 2 9 Things to Remember When You’re Having a Bad Day 3 5 Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude 4 How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts 5 How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on December 3, 2019

    10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

    10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

    There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

    Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

    1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

    Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

    There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

    Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

    2. Pace Yourself

    Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

    Advertising

    Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

    Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

    3. You Can’t Please Everyone

    “I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

    You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

    Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

    4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

    Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

    Advertising

    We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

    Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

    5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

    “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

    No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

    We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

    6. It’s Not All About You

    You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

    Advertising

    It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

    7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

    No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

    We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

    Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

    8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

    That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

    Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

    Advertising

    Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

    9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

    Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

    The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

    10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

    We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

    When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

    Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

    This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

    More Inspiring Lessons

    Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

    Read Next