The art of creating short but meaningful Twitter message

Delivering a clear message on Twitter could pose a challenge, since its limitation to 140 characters. As a food blogger, the issue remains the same: how to cramp those delicious message into a mere 140 characters short? While that question alone poses some challenge, it gets more complicated if what you're aiming for is interaction, and that's what makes Twitter and other social media, social.

The character count

The first consideration when writing a Twitter message is that if you want to include a link, 22 characters will be deducted automatically by Twitter's URL shortener service (23 if its a https URL). There goes the first casualty of those precious limited Twitter characters.

Should you think you have managed to form a message that exactly meet the 140 characters limitation including the link, the next considerations is to make it possible for your readers to retweet your message with comments (an "RT"), instead of simply forwarding them (the "retweet" button on Twitter). After all it doesn't feel social without a dose of interaction, isn't it? Well there goes another six precious Twitter character estate.

Why six? This happens because when someone want to properly retweet your post, they need to add an "RT", space, your Twitter ID, colon, then another space, to your original message, (for example "RT @epicurina: ") which mean some parts of your message will be truncated to give way to the additional required information (6 characters to be exact). On most third party apps, the addition of the extra characters are done automatically so you don't need to worry about doing it wrong.

Next, let's not forget to also deduct the characters for the length of the message your readers wants to add. Should it's something simple like "Wow! ", then there's another 5 characters you need to make a room for.

Therefore, the safe amount of characters you can put into each of your Twitter message can be calculated using this formula:

x = a - b - c - d - e

x = the safe number
a = maximum Twitter character (140)
b = the shortened link (22 or 23)
c = the RT (6)
d = the length of your ID in chars
e = the "Wow! " comment (5)

For example, as my Twitter ID "epicurina" consisted of 9 characters, therefore the safe amount of characters I can put into my Twitter posts are:

With link:
x = 140 - 22 - 6 - 9 - 5 = 98 characters

With https link:
x = 140 - 22 - 6 - 9 - 5 = 97 characters

Without link:
x = 140 - 6 - 9 - 5 = 120 characters

While you might get a better understanding of the actual character limitation now, or already received a permanent brain damage from reading all those calculations, the most challenging step in creating a good Twitter message is in the art of creating the message itself. Here's how.

How to keep your message short but still meaningful

While using abbreviation might work, in many cases they looks ugly, and often incomprehensible. Yes, we bloggers as other wordsmiths out there do care about the aesthetic of our message, as well as its clarity.

Here's a quick guidance: 

  1. Focus on delivering the message, instead of being a Grammar Nazi
  2. Rephrase instead of truncating
  3. Use noun and verb, less on the adjective
  4. Omit unnecessary punctuation marks
  5. Try out different versions, approach, perspective to your message 
For example, instead of writing this:
"Hi guys! Epicurina will have its annual dinner again this Friday night at 7:00, please refer to this link for details:"
Optimize it into this:
"Annual Epicurina dinner this Friday 7pm"
Not this:
"Hi guys! Epicurina'll hv its annual dnr 'agn ths Fri nite at 7, pls rfr to dis link 4 dtails"
While the first message takes exactly 140 characters, which fit to the Twitter's char limit, however it makes commenting for your readers impossible, as explained in the previous section.

The second (optimized) version on the other hand, consisted of just 62 chars, which left plenty of room for your readers to retweet with their own comments, like:
"Soo excited! RT @epicurina: Annual Epicurina dinner this Friday 7pm" (90 chars)
"Soo excited! Poke @otherreader RT @epicurina: Annual Epicurina dinner this Friday 7pm" (108 chars) 
"Very excited #eventoftheyear! Poke @otherreader @yetanotherone RT @epicurina: Annual Epicurina dinner this Friday 7pm" (140 chars)  
The third version doesn't even look comprehensible nor professional. Unless that's exactly how you want people to perceive you or the brand you represents.

The workaround

For those who don't want to get dizzy with trying to cope with the Twitter 140 character limitation, there are some applications out there that offers workaround to this limitation:
  1. Write whatever you want and let the app convert it into a proper length Twitter message, which includes link to the full post. See: TwishortTwenthTwitlongerJumbotweet.
  2. Write whatever you want and let the app sliced them into series of proper length Twitter message. See Talltweets
  3. Write whatever you want and let the app convert the text into image instead. See Talltweets
Just keep in mind though, each of the workaround have their own pros and cons, but feel free to try around the available options, you might find them helpful.

Got questions or comments? Please share it below. (byms)