Twitter Limits and Literacy

Up front: as posts are written in my off-time, this blog is mixed and often features my dog- I learn a lot about communication from him. For work related posts only, click the work tag or say hi on LinkedIn

Twitter’s introduction of a 280-character limit may not have received the best response, but people are using it. I’m glad it’s here to stay. It is going to boost connection and reach, I hope. This new limit will expand Twitter’s microblog style and leave some annoying elements behind. Like comprehension, for one.

One of the chief comments I hear from friends who say, “I should be on Twitter” is that they take one look at it and feel they can’t read it. Twitter does have a language of its own.  Mentions and hashtags are used extensively on Twitter, and even though both are also used on Facebook, Instagram, and texting, they look different in a tiny Twitter post.

I love a good hashtag because they are an excellent cataloguing and marketing tool when used well. They help you find communities you want to learn from. They help stream content to the communities you wish to reach.  But the poor use of # can creates a visual fence a reader can’t get through.

Because of Twitter’s character limit, effective hashtags are an art. They must be short and clear. Creating or finding the best ways to reach your audience is part research (How to Find the Best Twitter Hashtags) and can be part intuition. Many people have the short part down, but clear? Not as much. In my years on Twitter I’ve seen way too many tweets so riddled with hashtags they’re unreadable.

I’m hopeful that the 280-character limit will improve posts overall. I’m hopeful sentence structure will improve, and people will start using actual words for hashtags, rather than abbreviations and acronyms that are not generally known. Is it too much to hope for plain language? Maybe. I’ll keep harping on it though.



Image: Pixies, Pixabay

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