Does Twitter hurt or help writing?

Brevity is the soul of tweeting, and the restrictions that it imposes can either breed bad habits or require writers to become clearer and more concise.


As the lines separating social media, technology, and real life blur, commentators wonder whether the advances offered by these elements help or hinder.

Take copywriting, for example. Have social media and text messaging taken marketers’ use of English language two steps forward or two steps backward?

Where do you stand? You may feel a passionate instinct to defend Twitter and texting’s 140-character gifts to marketing copy. You may disagree. You may just think “LOLz.” There’s something to be said for each viewpoint.

The good

Today’s average reader gives a story seven seconds before, in most cases, losing interest and moving on. It’s in a writer’s interest to be concise and get to the point quickly. If you tweet, that should sound familiar.

Clear, succinct writing are the basis of tweeting, as tweets are limited to 140 characters, forcing people to say what’s important instead of beating around the bush. Why use five words when you can say it in one?

Inc.com’s Geoffrey James nails it when he says, “It is easier to write 1,000 words carelessly than to write 100 words carefully.”

Sometimes, communicating within 140 characters requires you to rewrite your tweet. Revising text is a good habit and essential to strong writing. Twitter sharpens that skill.

It is easier to see Twitter’s writing benefits than those of texting, the medium where LOL, OMG, TTYL, and 🙂 are prevalent. Yet, Robin Rothberg, a lecturer in communication studies at UNC-Charlotte, argues that writers can learn from texting.

“When the writer of a text keeps in mind the interruption of the text, the prominence of the text for the recipient, and the impatience people have for texts they deem unimportant, writing a text helps the writer learn message timing, message framing, and message relevancy,” she says.

The bad

Roland Lazenby, author of more than 70 books and thousands of articles, agrees that texting and tweeting reinforce brevity, but he points out that Twitter steers writers away from context and transition.

“You could argue that the absence of context does some damage to a culture already struggling to gain context,” Lazenby said. “It used to be that only public figures spoke in sound bites. Now, it seems we all do.”

Spelling and grammar mistakes are another downside, though the autocorrect feature on most phones is a safety net for people who struggle with spelling.

Robin Rothberg recommends following or friending people smarter than you think you are, in order to keep you on your intellectual toes. After all, when people text you using correct spelling and grammar, you are more likely to follow suit.

Do you feel that texting or social media spheres have helped or hurt your business writing? Please share your experiences in the comments section.

A version of this article first appeared on the Vocus blog.

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