6 Ways to Maximize the Use of Your 140 Characters

by Mark Fulton (follow him @DotSauce) from TweetSocial Twitter Community.

I always seem to get a warm-fuzzy feeling when I use up all 140 characters in a concise descriptive tweet. Here are some tips for making the most of those few characters you get to use.

1) Use shorthand codes. BRB, LOL, RT, TY, etc. Some may call it tech speak or leet speak. Acronyms and abbreviations for commonly used words and phrases. Check out this list of popular Twitter shorthands and if you like to use more colorful shorthand there is also a NSFW shorthand list. That’s Not-Safe-For-Work for you shorthand beginners.

2) Be clear and concise. Make sure you are not being redundant. Remove any words that might be irrelevant to what you are trying to convey.

3) Use URL shortening. This one is pretty obvious and is even built in to Twitter. However, there are some URL shortening services that can save you a few more characters than TinyURL. I use IS.GD and another popular one is XR.COM which even allows you to customize the URL.

4) Use special symbol characters. You may not know it, but Twitter accepts more than just normal characters. You can actually create hearts, stars, smilies and other symbols that can represent words or ideas in just 1 character. TheNextWeb has created a great tool called TwitterKeys which allows you to have all these symbols at your fingertips.

5) Use labels. Labeling your tweet has some cool benefits. A label is like a tag at the beginning of your tweet. Your followers will know exactly what you are sharing right away and they may even increase your chances of being re-tweeted. Here are some examples… (Reading:, Stumbling:, Digging:, etc.)

6) Be simple. This is a writing tip from Copyblogger, “…simple words work better than big ones. Write ‘get’ instead of ‘procure.’ Write ‘use’ rather than ‘utilize.’ Use the longer words only if your meaning is so precise there is no simpler word to use.”

Comments

  • February 17, 2009

    I with ya. Funny thing is I still meet people who see the LOL and think they’re receiving “lots-of-love.” Nice guide!

  • February 17, 2009

    Just because Twitter allows you to use 140 characters, does not mean that you have to. Make sure that you leave room for people to be able to easily Re Tweet your message. And yes make sure that you keep track of your URL’s in your messages as well, so that you can monitor the click throughs more accurately… Try http://tweetburner.com for that.

    cheers

    Mark

  • February 17, 2009

    Another useful URL shortening device is tr.im ( http://tr.im ).

    It even lets you know how many people clicked it, and give you stats!

  • February 17, 2009

    I know there are reasons sometimes for a tweeter to use 140 characters, but often a tweeter will use extra characters and words that aren’t necessary. When I go to retweet, I can’t, which saddens me, b/c the tweet is often very important, and sometimes even almost vital for the Twitter community.

    Which brings me to a question, Darren. Is it EVER okay to change a tweeter’s tweet slightly so one can RT it? Please, nobody throw pillows or bricks at me for asking!

  • February 17, 2009

    Great tips… although the writer in me struggles with this with each and every Tweet I make :)

    I like the labels too. Another thing to highlight about Twitter is the value of having your Tweets come back in search results meaningfully. Searching Twitter is becoming all the rage lately, so things like good labels and simple language probably help a lot in getting your Tweets to show up where they can have more of an impact than just right there in the stream. Just a thought.

    Great post. Thanks for the pointers/links too!

  • February 17, 2009

    Every little bit helps.

    A suggestion for folks as well: Try and make your tweet a bit less than 140 so that if someone is so inclined there is at least the room for “RT @”

    Cheers!

    George

  • February 17, 2009

    All good, sensible advice. Re. krissy’s query, I can’t see any objection to editing a tweet so that you can RT it – I do this regularly myself, sometimes to shorten them, and sometimes to make the original message clearer for my followers. When you RT a tweet, you are simply crediting the original tweeter for the info, but IMO you are not under any obligation, morally or legally, to reproduce the exact message word for word.

  • February 17, 2009

    Thx for this post.
    I use this excellent tool for shortening my tweets http://140it.com/

  • February 17, 2009

    I try to think of it like you are texting on a cell phone. That’ll make it so you do not type a lot and you should stay under the 140 characters you can use.

  • February 17, 2009

    I disagree with #1 “Use shorthand codes.” If you think about what you are writing you can use complete words, keeping the tweet on a readable level, not an instant message. I don’t need to have a piece of paper sitting next to me with all the shorthand on it to figure out what someone said.

    Learning how to fit what you want to say into 140 characters actually makes you a better writer, better thinker, while expanding your vocabulary with words that are useful in the non twitter world.

  • February 17, 2009

    Great tips here, 140it.com is a nice way for you to short it up using the acronyms. Like “freebies mentor” said, I try to think of it as a text and not type in alot, and I try to leave room for RT’s.

  • February 17, 2009

    Good advice. I will say, however, that RT and other choice bits of ‘techspeak’ aside, please, please, please people, don’t ever use txt speak. For example, m8 for ‘mate’ or l8ers. Just awful. It’s pretty much considered poor form throughout the world on any medium now, even mobile phones. Creative people will find creative ways to find shorter, superior words.

    As for changing RTs, I don’t see a problem with it as long as you give credit to the original Tweeter. To be fair, sometimes just adding the RT @user part can make the Tweet longer than 140 characters (Mark provides a good tip on getting around this above), so something has to be snipped. Other times, the content is good but the person who wrote the Tweet either can’t write worth a damn or has described the content poorly. In all these cases I think it’s fine to change to whatever you want, as surely the only part that matters is applying credit to the original user and passing on the link? (I don’t ever really see a point in RTing Tweets that don’t contain links.)

  • February 17, 2009

    Aside from “RT,” I try to avoid acronyms, just as I do in texting. I feel that it dilutes the message, and I actually get more out of my 140 characters by finding alternatives to those abbreviations. I’d rather find a different way to say what I want to say than shorten words like “anyone” to “any1″ and so on.

    And Krissy, I agree with Nick Daws. I shortened a retweet the other day from “Thank you Andrew Bird for making the violin cool. It’s hard to do, lol. [url] Listening to his new album now. Yum.” to “Thank you Andrew Bird for making the violin cool. [url]” I felt that the other text was unnecessary for the repost.

  • February 17, 2009

    Great suggestions, Mark! Like there isn’t already enough URL shorteners around, my favorite is bit.ly — It’s reliable, used by many people, and provides some very advanced stats (here’s an example). :)

  • February 17, 2009

    Than you for the information. Some times i feel really funny writhing in only 140 characters and its great because its make you be more exact in what you traing to say. so that why i love twitter whit the information you give we will improve a lot more.

  • February 17, 2009

    I like most of your ideas. I have found a few of the URL shortners are blocked at school :( Also, TwitterKeys symbols don’t show up correctly on some mobile browsers.

  • February 17, 2009
    Josh Hurlock
    @JoshHurlock

    Thanks for the post. I am a young, aspiring entrepreneur and am relatively new to the social media scene. As an intern for under30ceo.com, I am also looking for ways to improve my tweeting. I was actually just thinking about this the other day, with how I always seem to struggle keeping my tweets under the 140 character mark. All these points seem to be spot on. Again, thanks for the help.

  • February 17, 2009

    Talk about REALLY maximizing 140 characters:
    http://agitationist.com/hookers-love-twitter
    …not to mention “monetizing Twitter”.

  • February 17, 2009

    Two things:
    - over-use of “shorthand codes” and abbreviations fights against conciseness and clarity. If you try to pack too much into those 140 characters, I can’t read what you wrote.
    - those cute special symbols are NOT “one character”. They’re UTF8 – possibly as much a 4 bytes per symbol. Also, keep in mind that not al readers are UTF8 compatible. Use sparingly.

    If your thought isn’t fitting in 140 characters, perhaps it’s time to trim what you’re trying to say, rthr thn cutng ltrs 2 abbrev & mk shrtr.

  • February 17, 2009

    I’m not a big fan of the 2 and 4 short forms and I don’t like to see tons of them in a tweet. I tend 2 skip them 4 various reasons 8=) I guess I’m not l33t enough.

    As for RT’ing a long tweet, I’ve just split them into 2 separate RT’s with a … at the end of the first and a … at the beginning of the second. I will add [Had to split it to fit it] to let people know — there’s usually enough room for that. Maybe I should use SITFI though.

    You can also strip out extra names if you RT an RT. Just include the originator.

    As for the twooshes — I didn’t think it was a big deal, at first 8=) Now I try for it when I’m getting close. It’s kind of a challenge.

  • February 17, 2009

    Thank you so much for the tip about TwitterKeys – I will definitely check that out. I love any way to pack more info into that small box, and symbols can really help!

    Danelle Ice / Homemaker Barbi

  • February 17, 2009

    One of my followers, sent me what was an email blast. I know this because he has over 10K followers. Anyone know what tools send to ALL followers at once? Or is there a tool that sends to NEW Followers automatically?
    Maybe that’s how he is doing it as a blast would be SPAM.

  • February 17, 2009

    Wow, NOBODY mentioned hashtags!

    For example, right now the hashtag “#nyfw” is getting tons of use. It means that your tweet is referring to the New York Fashion Week and obviously saves you a ton of characters.

  • February 17, 2009

    These are wonderful tips. I particularly liked the shorthand list. It is a great idea to make it simple and leave some blank space just in case somebody might retweet your words. And for the sake of transparency of course. As to the url shortening here is a wonderful list with 68 links including which of them include bookmarklets for your browser. http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/url-shortening-services-the-ultimate-list/

  • February 17, 2009

    This is a great list. One of the things I really love about Twitter is that it forces people to get to the point. Posts like this add to that. Great work.
    My only concern is that TwitterKeys does not appear to work with TweetDeck (yet). If you’ve gotten it to work on TD, tweet me and let me know.

  • February 17, 2009

    I believe URL shortening is the most frequently used technique. I used them myself and surely everyone can make some use of more characters space. This twitter thing is creating a whole new world around it. Just like this nice blog with all this comments. Isn’t it?

  • February 17, 2009

    @krissy

    Which brings me to a question, Darren. Is it EVER okay to change a tweeter’s tweet slightly so one can RT it? Please, nobody throw pillows or bricks at me for asking!

    Krissy, there’s absolutely no shame in rewriting a retweet, in my opinion. There’s only so much you can put in 140 chrs.; not everyone is as concise as required sometimes. I like moving the originator’s name to the end, like so “(via @krissy)”. That way, it’s like, “thanks, @krissy” instead of “at” that originator (but they still get the response). It just feels better grammatically.

    Another reason I don’t mind rewriting it (with the “hat tip” above) is that I might want to put my own spin on it, or indicate why I think it’s relevant. Here’s some examples from me recently that highlight some of these ideas.

  • February 17, 2009

    Please choose to make writing concise and avoid the shorthand text that will slow me down.

  • February 17, 2009

    Not to shamelessly self promote, but it’s extremely on topic. Got a message, but it’s a little bit too long? Enter it into tweetcut.com, and it’ll shorten it for you, using popular shorthand words. You into U, and into &, etc…. it will also let you post it to twitter from the site.

    Hope it helps.

  • February 17, 2009

    Simplicity of words used in blogs and tweets is quite important

  • February 18, 2009

    Keep It Simple. Best rule in the universe.

  • February 18, 2009

    I think people can almost ALWAYS use “use” instead of “utilize.” Even off of twitter. That’s a pet peeve of mine.
    I’m going to utilize my phone now…

  • February 18, 2009

    Really a nice guide to make most of 140 chatacters,

  • February 18, 2009

    Really useful article to express and make most out 0f 140 characters

  • February 18, 2009

    One thing I’ll say is that I do agree that too much shorthand is annoying, but well-known web acronyms shouldn’t be shunned. Using ROFL or LOL shouldn’t necessarily be frowned upon because people by this day and age SHOULD know what ROFL or LOL stand for. (The future is here people, adapt please.)

    I will admit that there are some much weirder acronyms going around that even I have to look up, but common sense should put you on the right track.

    Not trying to sound harsh, but most of my twitter audience will know an LOL or a BRB when they see it. YMMV. <– See? ;)

  • February 18, 2009

    I don’t know about you all, but I find that extreme LOLspeak (e.g. TweetCut) in the service of brevity just looks bad. If the idea is too complex to fit – legibly – into 140 characters, then write up a post and link to it, with a short summary. I guess if your audience is MySpace kids, then LOLchat FTW!

  • February 19, 2009

    Tip #6 is my absolute favorite – largely because it can be applied to any type of writing, not just Tweets. It’s pretty hard to get your point across effectively on Twitter (or your blog or anywhere else, for that matter) when you’re trying to show off your vocabulary.

  • February 20, 2009

    Schweeet…. I was wondering what some of these things meant!

    Chris

  • February 20, 2009

    LOL lots of luck, lots of love,loss of life,laughing out loud,little old lady,list of links, should I go on which one do you mean?
    Man WWJD! God bless

  • February 21, 2009

    Great tips and can never have too many lists of providers for URL shortening! I also use cjb.net for custom redirects. Thanks!

  • February 23, 2009

    While I agree that avoiding too much shorthand is preferable, sometimes it just seems like it cannot be avoided. 140 characters isn’t very much, especially if a clickable URL in the text uses up anywhere from 17 (shortest, through is.gd or tr.im) up to 30 characters right of the bat.

    I’ve taken to occasionally using “..” both at the end of the 1st as well as at the beginning of the next tweet to signify continuation if necessary. Of course that may not always be received in the intended way.

    One thing that I have increasingly noticed is that many Twitter users do not fully take into account the longer-term aspects of Twitter as an asynchronous medium (in that tweets stay around to be read/followed in a thread, and mined, kind of like a public form of email). Especially if the “in reply to” link/context is lost, like happens with many of the desktop and other Twitter clients, if you’re tweet does not contain some sort of reference information, it often becomes incomprehensible.

    Note that the common practice of formatting retweets as “RT @username: …” leads to the “in reply to” link breaking to the original tweet, even through Twitter’s Web interface. Same happens with Tweetdeck’s Retweet button/function as far as I can tell.

    I’ve been experimenting with using a “@username RT: …” format instead which preserves the link in the Web interface. Not sure if it confuses people already used to the other format, thoug hit does have the benefit of alerting the RT’d tweets author to the RT, because it will show up as an @reply for them, while “RT @…” will only be caught by a Twitter Search or in clients such as Tweetdeck.

    Without the conversation thread (and why can Search.twitter.com assemble convos but Twitter itself hasn’t integrated this?), Tweets become a sort of orphan, so breaking the “in reply to” links should be avoided at all cost (assuming of course that there was a conversation).

    Which brings me to one more point: If you’re not engaging in (at least some) conversation, it doesn’t much matter what/how you write, you are not taking advantage of Twitter to the fullest. Because without people REPLYING to you, your @username is not even being seen by anyone other than your existing followers, of whom only a fraction is ever in a position to catch your tweets at any one time. So there will be almost no network effects.

    I’d say that even for the less chatty/more introverted/etc. 25% @replies and conversations should be the minimum. More is better, just ask @unmarketing, @daivrawks, etc.

    Roll your own Tinyurl-like URL shortener using Wordress in < 45 minutes:
    http://3on.us/your-own-tinyurl

  • March 7, 2009

    I just found this post during a web search for information on Twitter’s 140 character rule and whether or not that included URLs and must applaud you for writing this post. It has some helpful tips and is very useful.

  • April 18, 2009

    Great information. You put alot of thought into this. Good job

  • May 1, 2009

    I built one application for this scope it’s called Twitter Compressor

  • November 6, 2009

    it’s funny how you spend so much time in english class and every day life trying to make yourself sound “smarter” and more professional, yet when you use twitter you have to spend time doing the opposite! i’m always stuck when posting on twitter as i don’t like the idea of using txt speak with possible customers but with the small limit of 140 characters it’s hard not to

  • November 22, 2009

    Have only recently got into the whole Twitter thing, but I like the way it forces you to be extremyl succinct and to the point.

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