8 tips for writing shorter tweets

Twitter birdA few years ago, I wrote tips about how to get your tweets retweeted on Twitter. This blog updates those thoughts and offers some refreshed ideas about how to compose tweets that are easy to reshare. 

Want to be retweeted? Keep ‘em short!

The best way to get your company or organization’s message out on social media is if people share it. When it gets shared or “retweeted” on Twitter, the message’s reach instantly multiplies. It also adds credibility to your message to a wider audience because people are more likely to trust what their friends say over an establishment.

So how do you accomplish this? How do you get people to retweet what you have to say? The most obvious thing is to have something important to say. But even good messages may not get shared if people have to work to do it. Facebook has easy ways to share information if it’s a link, etc. So let’s focus on Twitter.

Why does keeping my tweets shorter than 140 matter? 

Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows people to share short messages with their audience. Anyone who follows the site knows it’s used to share about anything from upcoming events to people babbling out of boredom. Here’s the thing. Note two words in that first sentence: micro and short.

Twitter only allows 140 characters in each tweet (message) and there’s talk of some tweets even being shortened to 117 characters. Characters include each letter, space or punctuation mark. When tweets get reposted, the letters RT and the person’s handle also appear in the message, making it all that longer. Take, for example, my Twitter handle @JamiesNotes. When my messages get retweeted, it would add RT @JamiesNotes: to the message. That’s 16 characters! So it’s imperative that if I want to have my message spread that I keep my messages at least 16 characters less than 140.

Tips for writing shorter tweets

  • Dates: don’t bother to use st or nd and you can also shorten the month and have it still be correct. For example: use Sept 1 instead of September 1st. You save 7 characters that way. To make things really short, however, just use numbers (5/18).
  • If the event is happening this year, it’s really not necessary to put 2013 (or whatever the current year happens to be). I personally don’t think it’s necessary to put both the day of the week and the date (Tuesday, Nov ??). If you do want that, take the liberty of abbreviating the day of the week. (I know that’s not normal grammar for business writing but for Twitter it’s OK). 
  • When talking about times, don’t bother with the periods between the am and pm. Also, it’s not necessary to write from 10 p.m. to 4 p.m. Use 10am-4pm and people will understand just fine!
  • If you’re using a program that doesn’t automatically shorten the link, use a service such as Bit.ly
  • Avoid unnecessary punctuation. Even if you’re excited about something, you don’t need more than one exclamation point. This can be different if your message is very short, but most are not! Also, many people use ….. before a link and that’s also a waste of space. I know some autotweet programs insert those, but fix it before sending if you can.
  • Avoid unnecessary spaces. You don’t need to put a space before and after a dash. You also don’t need two spaces after a period. Journalists don’t even do this in their normal writing and it’s just not needed in tweets either.
  • Numbers: it’s not necessary to spell out numbers, even if they are less than 10 (which are Associated Press style to spell out). Use digits, it will shorten things up a lot!
  • Use relatively common means of abbreviating other words or numbers for example, you don’t need to say $13,000. Just use $13K. It says the same thing.

What other ways do you find to shorten tweets and have them still sound like English?

What’s your story?

Jamie at Jamie’s Notebook (that’s me) works closely with entrepreneurs, organizations and established businesses to help them express their ideas or to share their vision using the written word. Need help? Call me!


  1. Tweets that mention Want to be retweeted? Keep ‘em short | Jamie's Notebook -- Topsy.com - June 19, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by NWACares and Jamie Smith, Jamie's Notebook. Jamie's Notebook said: Another look at my blog about getting retweeted. Good social media technique means being shareable/retweetable http://ow.ly/20FJt [...]

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