By Darin L. Hammond
Many in my English teaching profession bash Twitter, saying that tweeps mangle language, encourage poor writing, promote the trivial, etc. While these concerns are real, this isn't reality for all. Twitter is not writing's satan. If one is looking for rich development, in-depth analysis, synthesis of sources, and so forth, Twitter fails. However, working on the sentence level, where most need help, confining what might be said in 250 words to 140 can be positive. This is only effective if one avoids the cheats and short cuts of text messaging.
Tweeting improves my writing by:
1. Trimming unnecessary or redundant description. Tweets leave no room for "very," "almost always," "the color red," "frequently," and the like. These word do little to add to a sentence. Why not say "red" instead of "the color red?" I point here to the concision of language. Brevity equals power. I Trim tweets to make them lean. I apply this to other forms of writing, and I find my sentences are powerful.
2. Emphasizing verbs. Brevity requires strong verbs. Notice that I might have said "The narrow path to being brief in writing is paved by strong and powerful verbs." More eloquent? I don't think so, and I picked "requires" to eliminate a lot of what I call fluff in writing, the passive verb structure "is paved by," for example.
3. Focusing on content and summary words. For purposes of SEO and simple clarity, Tweets encourage one to center on important terms. Placing the essential at the beginning of Tweets maximizes searchability, a positive for most Tweeps. In writing, this serves to grab the reader. I choose words carefully and state my key terms first. The reader knows where I am going.
4. Thinking of the reader. I can't afford to confuse readers in a Tweet or effort is wasted. I must engage the reader immediately and share content, but all is lost if my writing doesn't make sense. I focus on clarity, appeal, word choice, topic choice--all essential to quality writing. Considering my audience, makes my words more potent.
5. Revising my language. My readers detect slop, and I avoid wasting their time. I polish that single sentence to acheive maximal effect. Also, I find myself frequently exceeding the word count, and Twitter points to this immediately. Twitter is a teacher is telling me--"get to the point." I tell myself that I can do better and I can shrink my message without losing anything, gaining power. That word count reminder is a powerful motivation for precise language.
I do not speak of what currently happens on Twitter, but I am suggesting that better writing is possible through forced concision. My writing has improved because of this. Happy Tweeting!
I welcome your comments.