6 ways Twitter will make you a better writer

Writing tweets will improve your writing and marketing skills in ways you’ve never imagined.

Typewriter
Witthaya Phonsawat/freedigitalphotos.net

Most  writers never imagined tweeting for a living. Writing 140 characters is a far cry from writing a novel or a long-form magazine piece.

Still, many social media professionals, myself included, come from a print journalism background. Not only do I think writers make better tweeters, but after four years of tweeting for a living, I think it’s vastly improved my writing skills in ways school never could have. Here’s how:

1. Tweeting forces you to trim the fat

Writers like to ramble. We either want to sound poetic, feel the need to overemphasize, or dilly dally because we can’t quite figure out how to get to our point.

The whole purpose of Twitter is you have to say a lot with a little. Because of that, it may be one of the only writing mediums where you often spend more time thinking about writing than doing the actual writing.

Instead of typing absentmindedly until you get to something that represents a punchline, you have to start with an intimate understanding of your content – and use that to write something that sticks in as few words as possible.

2. It forces you to rewrite until you get it right

Editing is a much less sexy endeavor than the writing itself. When us writers are overcome by swells of inspiration, it’s difficult to look back at what we’ve written as anything less than perfect. Writing is an emotional process and it’s nearly impossible to read our own work objectively.

But when you’re limited to 140 characters, and physically can not send out a tweet that extends beyond that, you have no choice but to edit your own work. Nearly every sentence ever written can be shorter and tighter, and Twitter will force you to cut it down, piece by piece.

For example, a tweet that began as:

Lyza was 5 months pregnant when Typhoon #Haiyan struck. She climbed a coconut tree while holding onto her child and grandmother to keep them safe from the water.

Became:

3. It forces you to write about a lot of things in a short amount of time

When you’re managing a Twitter feed, variety is important. While you’ll work towards a unified voice, chances are you’ll be talking about a number of topics and change your tone from one tweet to the next. You may start the morning telling a sad story and finish the day with a cute photo – with several fluctuations in between.

When you’re writing long-form, your tone and topic stay consistent throughout, but there’s a definite value to the schizophrenic nature of writing tweets. You’ll learn to not get lost in your own emotions as you switch rapidly from one topic to the next. It’ll introduce an element of versatility into your writing diet that will help you grow your repertoire as a professional marketer, a journalist or even a novelist.

4. You will always be intentional

There’s no way you can achieve your business or nonprofit’s social media goals in a single tweet. 140 characters can be powerful, but it’s not going to change anything on its own.

A good tweet encourages action beyond the platform. It motivates readers to click over to a website to read more, share with their friends, watch a video or just think about something from a new perspective.

Regardless of what your tweet’s goal is, it needs to have one. Every. Single. Time. Each tweet needs to be an invitation to do something more, and you need to know what that something is before you write it.

The best pieces of writing in the world are intentional. There’s not a word or punctuation that doesn’t add a critical element to the overall message of the piece. By default, your Twitter account will force you to take that stance. Not only do you have to consider the content you’re presenting, but also what exactly it needs to accomplish, and how that will contribute to your overall marketing goals.

5. It teachers you to find the simplicity in complicated topics

Whether you’re working for a nonprofit or a business, you’ll be faced with an array of topics you’ll need to communicate with your audience. Some of them will be simple – “20% discount in stores and online” or “Baby elephant takes first steps.”

But others will be quite complex, and it’s your job to not only communicate the gist of it in a limited space, but to do so in a compelling manner. To do this effectively, you’ll have to spend time breaking down the content by its key components, and fitting it back together into a 140 character whole.

For example, the Gates Foundation has been pushing the Common Core movement to improve education in the U.S. Common Core is a multifaceted initiative to establish curriculum and performance standards across the States. It is anything but simple.

Still, the Gates Foundation needs to tweet about it to raise awareness. Here’s how they broke it down into something simple and compelling, yet totally accurate:

Not only will this exercise get you out of the habit of using a lot of words to compensate for a limited understanding, but it will equip you with the best skill any marketer can have – how to translate business speak into interesting public communications.

Eventually you’ll find it changes the way you think. You’ll be sitting in a brainstorming session and learn to evaluate campaign ideas not just by their fundraising, engagement or sales potential, but also by your ability to deliver the campaign battle cry when you have less than a few seconds to capture your audience’s attention.

6. You get feedback, whether you like it or not

When you’re home alone writing your novel chances are no one aside from close friends and family will read it until it’s finished. While the people closest to you can provide valuable feedback, they can never have the true objectivity of strangers.

When you’re tweeting, on the other hand, you open yourself up to commentary from total strangers who won’t have any motivation to spare your feelings. Not only that, but they’ll be critiquing in batches of 140 characters instead of chapters at a time. You’ll know which tweets were retweeted and clicked on, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have some replies affirming your good work or telling you (unfortunately not always so nicely) what you can do better.

If you pay even a little bit of attention to what does well and what doesn’t, you can apply it to future tweets. If you tweet every day, imagine how much you’ll be able to improve by the end of just one month.

Have you found that tweeting has helped your writing skills? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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