Rhys Wynne

North Wales blogger & serial twitterer. His new ebook – “Value Added Retweets” – is available to download now for free from his website.

8 Characters to Make Your Tweets Sparkle

On Twitter, you have 140 characters to play with. Most people stick to the 26 letters, 10 numbers, half a dozen punctuation marks and currency signs. Fact is, underneath your fingers there are a treasure trove of characters to make your tweets more interesting, shorter & more colourful. By making your tweets stand out, you will get more people actively reading them because subconsciously your eyes are drawn to them. If your tweets are useful (and I’ve no reason to doubt why they should be), you should end up with more clicks on links, more retweets and generally more twitter love.

Here’s a few of my favourite special characters that I like to put in Tweets.

I explain how to get them on the most common form of keyboards – the US Keyboard Layout (which is used by the most of the western world). If different, I will also include the UK keycode, between them that should cover most of the keyboards in English speaking countries, but if English isn’t your native language, these may be different. The characters are there, but you’ll have to dig to find them.

11. The Ampersand
How To Get It: Press Shift + 7
When Should You Use It?
This character is very simple, as it shortens the word “and” to 1 character, saving yourself two characters in the process.

22. The “At” Sign
How To Get It: UK Keyboards – Shift+’
US Keyboards – Shift+2
When You Should Use It?
Used all the time in emails, the @ sign can also be used for events (for example, the show begins @ 7pm). Saving yourself one character in the process.

33. The Asterix
How to Get It: Press Shift + 8
When You Should Use It?
This is one I use all the time for emotions, verbs, basically what I am doing. If I’m writing **smiles and nods**, I’m smiling and nodding. This is great in conveying how I feel about things, as well as emotions that are difficult to convey such as sarcasm.

44. The Music Symbol (Joined Quavers)
How to Get It: Hold Alt & Type 14
When You Should Use It?
I’ve begun seeing this more and more when people are talking about music & songs they are listening to, particularly when using services such as Last.fm & Spotify. Often people will post music recommendations, followed with joined quavers, to show that it’s a musical link.
It’s a great idea to do this, as it can be a text based warning to users, by saying “this link is a Spotify link, so a song will automatically play when opened”. This’ll stop users opening music links when they really shouldn’t be.

55. Hearts
How to get it: Hold Alt & Type 3
When You Should Use It?
The obvious place is by sharing a link that you love, or a twitterer you love, or anything you “More than like”. This negates the old <3 symbol used for hearts, saving you one character, plus it looks a lot neater.

66. The Pipe
How To Get It: Shift+\
When You Should Use It?
Originally used in Computer Science to show the destination of data (amongst other things), the Pipe character has found a new home in title bars accross the Search Engine Optimized web. Use this in tweets to split up your tweets, I like it whenever I post a blog title, to split my name of the blog post away from my blog name.

The other way I’ve seen people using this is through retweeting, as one of the standards for commenting on a retweet – by putting a | at the end of the retweetee (is that even a word?), you can define what are your thoughts & what are the retweetee’s thoughts.

77. The Bullet
How To Get It: Hold Alt + Type 7
When You Should Use It?
I’ve found this is great at highlighting a tweet with one at the beginning, and one at the end of the tweet. However, with this (and number 8 on the list), you should be careful, as you can really annoy people with these.

Used sparingly, bullets in tweets can have a huge effect on the CTR of links on the site, because you use solid shapes to draw in people to your tweet. You will stand out, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing – well – that’s down to you, and what you are drawing attention to.

88. Pointers
How To Get These: Hold Alt & Type 16 (for right pointer) or 17 (for left pointer)
When Should You Use This?
Very, very, sparingly. “Play Forward” & “Play Reverse” can launch your tweets into the stratosphere. However, use them too much, and you could destroy all credibility you have.

Using these characters in tweets REALLY highlight your tweets, as they act like arrows, pointing people’s eyes to your tweet. They are “filled in” as well, so that they are instant eye catchers on your tweets full of text.

Please be careful though, as overuse can make you seem like a bit of a spammer and an attention seeker, which could result in mass unfollowing. Every now and then, for really important tweets, you can get away with it. Just.

Word of Warning
These characters work fine on Twitter, a lot of desktop clients, and on the iPhone. However, because they work on a number of systems doesn’t mean that they work on all systems, so use them sparingly and a way to highlight, as to not only not annoy, but to make your tweets accesible to as many of your followers as possible.

However, these are great ways to brighten up your tweets using more obscure characters, so why not use one of the characters above the next time you tweet your favourite song, or link to your blog, or retweet a friend? I’m sure you will stand out in more ways than one!

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Comments

  • November 28, 2009

    thanks for the tips. you have solved a great mystery for me! i’m going to start using asap!
    thanks again,
    marsha spaniel
    http://www.spinalfsuion.etsy.com

  • November 28, 2009

    Great little piece about characters and symbols I can really use.
    Thanks!

  • November 28, 2009

    Thanks for this Rhys – can I ask whether you’re on a PC or Mac? I’m on a Mac and don’t seem to be able to get the Alt+ characters to work.

    Cheers.

  • November 28, 2009

    These are great tips for not only saving character space, but for drawing attention to your tweets.

    The only issue is that I am having trouble getting the alt commands to work. I have tried on Twitter.com, TweetDeck, Su.pr, Google browser and even in an open email. It doesn’t seem to work anywhere.

    FYI: I have a Dell Windows XP PC. Do these actions only work on Apple computers?

  • November 28, 2009

    Great post… I must have a go with the pointers – very useful. That book I recommended to you ‘a style guide for the short form’ covers bits like this too. It recommends new ways to get creative and influence people to follow you and tweet you!! It’s a good read!

  • November 28, 2009

    @Chris – I’m on a PC with windows. Should’ve added that. I’m finding out the apple mac & linux versions!

  • November 28, 2009

    I can’t get these to work on Twitter, on notepad, or anywhere other than the standard symbols like @ &. Are these for some handheld device’s keyboard only? Still, thanks for the article, and I hope you can help me figure out what I’m doing wrong.

  • November 28, 2009

    On mac:
    option + command + t and select the character you want :) ☺✈♧♥♠☁☀☂☃✁✂❥❦❢❡❧ etc…

  • November 28, 2009

    I use Twitter Keys which you drag and drop the bookmarklet. Easy to use, just open the floating window, double click the icon you want, Ctrl+C and then paste into your message Ctrl+V
    http://thenextweb.com/2008/09/16/twitterkeys-enhance-your-twitter-conversations/

  • November 28, 2009

    Very helpful, I didn’t know these characters were possible.

  • November 28, 2009

    @Nicky – never heard of that bookmarklet, put onto my bookmark toolbar, thanks!

    @Ruth – I’m using Windows XP for this, on a standard PC. What are you using?

  • November 28, 2009

    There is a virtual keyboard for special characters at http://TweetSmarter.com —works for Mac or PC

  • November 28, 2009
    Ruth

    @Rhyswynne I’m using Windows Vista on a pc, laptop.

  • November 28, 2009

    I also use Twitter Keys, since the ALT key dependent characters don’t seem to work on Linux machines – or at least not on ASUS eeePCs running Linux (okay, I admit that’s probably not a huge usergroup!)

  • November 28, 2009

    Good list, many I didn’t know about, but I think you forgot one very important character: the pound/number sign/hash-tag #

  • November 28, 2009

    For those on a PC who cannot get the ALT key combinations to work, you need to use the numeric keypad, not the row of numbers above QWERTY…

    Some larger laptops have separate numeric keypads like external keyboards – for those without, you may be best to use a cut & paste method.

  • November 28, 2009
    Bill Journee
    @mr_billiam

    Good list!

    :-) I reckon the ellipsis (…) character should make an appearance here too. It’s alt+0133 in Windows, or option+; in OSX, and saves 2 characters over three manual dots …

  • November 28, 2009

    @Ruth – Odd. I’ll be honest, it should work on a Windows Vista based laptop, as the machine used to write that post is exactly the same.

    @Pat – On a day to day basis, you are in the same usergroup as this commenter ;)

  • November 28, 2009

    I find the 4, 5, 8 awesome since not much users know it and how to type it. They may make my tweets more interesting.

  • November 29, 2009

    I’ve used the & and @ quite a bit for many of the uses you mention above. But I never knew there was a way to create musical notes on the keyboard. Since I blog about film music and opera and like to tweet about what I’m listening to or recommendations, those will definitely come in handy. Thanks so much!

  • November 29, 2009

    Awesome – thanks for sharing:-)

    I always wondered and never dared to asked – feeling one down;-(

    Now the miracle has been solved, great:-)

  • November 29, 2009

    I really love this story and thanks for sharing! I’ve been noticing several of these characters on Twitter – esp the bar, the heart and the musical note and I always wondered how people were able to use them. Only thing, I wasn’t able to type any character that required me using the “alt” key..hmmmm

  • November 29, 2009

    @AndrewBlanda Thank you it worked! Much better since using the numeric keypad numbers vs numbers above QWERTY.

  • November 29, 2009

    This is going to make a big difference with my tweets. I hope I do it right! Thanks.

  • November 30, 2009
    sandra erbe
    @sandraerbe

    AWESOME!

  • November 30, 2009

    Rhys, An informative read. I would use these symbols sparingly though. Too much glitter can be a turn-off to some.

  • November 30, 2009

    Hey Rhys – fun post!! I’m a mega fan of blinging up tweets. LOL!

    For PC’s, I often refer peeps to http://alt-codes.net – keyboard shortcuts rock.

    For Mac’s, on your Browser: click View > Special Characters to open a pop out that you can simply copy & paste for tweets, Facebook updates etc.

    And for both Mac and PC a fun bookmarklet is available at: http://thenextweb.com/2008/09/16/twitterkeys-enhance-your-twitter-conversations/

    Wheeee – let the bling run free!! :)

  • November 30, 2009

    Great tips for making tweets more interesting. I must say I have seen some Twitterers use them & the tweets do stand out more! Thanks for sharing!

  • November 30, 2009

    Thanks for all the kind words, been clicking on links & leaving comments. Much appreciated :)

    @Hunter C Coch – Yes I did! It’s not intentional, I forgot. I also didn’t mention with @ the fact that it’s used for replies!

    @Andrew Blanda – Thanks for solving this bug! Being on a desktop, it’s obvious to me, yet puzzled why nobody fixed it. Thanks!

    @Bill Journee – Oooh good one! Never really thought of that, it’s something that always use when I … in Word, but never realised there was a character for it.

    @Ryan – Couldn’t agree more. You don’t want it to be too distracting, as people will simply unfollow you. Now & then for big things though, it doesn’t hurt!

    @Mari Smith – Nice list, I wasn’t aware of these, thanks for posting!

  • November 30, 2009

    Excellent, Rhys.

    The path to the sunny beach is paved with brilliant posts like this one.

  • December 1, 2009

    great article. helps a lot. would love to see more new info.

  • December 2, 2009
    Cookie

    It’s “asterisk”. Asterix is a French cartoon character ;D

  • December 11, 2009
    eddieduggan
    @eddieduggan

    Re. “3. The Asterix”

    Asterix is a character in the eponymous French comic book series (Asterix is the little one; the big one is his friend Obelix). Here’s a picture of Asterix:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f6/Asterix1.png

    The popular typographical character is an asterisk. Here’s a picture of one: http://www.holamun2.com/files/images/attachments/2007/09/asterisk.jpg

  • December 14, 2009

    NOW I finally know how to make those darn hearts!!!

    Great tips, thanks so much!

  • December 15, 2009

    I likes this!!!!! Thanks.

  • December 16, 2009

    As others have pointed out #3 is an asterisk. Maybe correct it?

  • December 22, 2009

    Love these tips! I’ve been wondering how to do this…thanks!

  • December 27, 2009

    This is a fabulous post – thanks for sharing – I’ve had it bookmarked for a few days ready to start putting it in action – thanks! :)

  • January 2, 2010

    For laptop with no numeric keypads (like mine), which is needed to enter the special characters, you can use the On-Screen Keyboard at Accessories >> Ease of Access, and do it there ;-) . I hope this helps!

  • January 3, 2010

    I’ve found that the Num Lock has to be on in order for the Alt+ keys to work. I’m on a PC with XP

  • January 7, 2010

    Wow, these characters really interesting. I saw other people use them but I just wonder how to make it. Finally, I can learn from here, really thanks for the tips :)

  • January 16, 2010

    I’m on a dell laptop with Windows 7 and the alt+ don’t work for me

  • January 23, 2010

    ASTERIX was a cartoon Gaul – friend of Obilix. An ASTERISK is a symbol on your keyboard!!! LOL

  • February 27, 2010

    Dear Mac users you can access many fancy characters through the menu bar.

    Under the Apple menu select System preferences and when it opens select International near the top. Then select Input Menu again at the top. Tick the Character Palette and Keyboard Viewer boxes at the top and tick the Show in the Menu Bar box at the bottom.

    A little flag depending on the nationality of your keyboard should appear in the menu bar at the top of your screen. Click on it and you can choose what you want to use.

    The Keyboard Viewer will let you experiment with key combinations to see how to select special characters.

    The Character Palette will let you go nuts with options. If you double click a character of the hundreds available it should appear at the insertion point of whatever text programme you are using.

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