I received an email from a reader asking about keeping tweets under 140 characters. Here’s what he said:
“Just finished your book and hopefully set up an account. Think I successfully set. up my first tweet. One question. First draft too long. I couldn’t figure out how to get help to cut it down. Just backspaced and deleted words. Is there another way? Thanks for your great treatise.”
It’s actually a common problem, and one that I deal with every day. I like to express thoughts that may take a whole sentence and use “normal” English grammar, but Twitter is unforgiving — anything over 140 characters will be cut off upon posting. Fortunately, Twitter shows how many characters remain (or are over the limit), which makes figuring out the proper length a little easier.
Here’s what I wrote back:
Thanks for your email! There’s no magic way to cut a tweet down to 140 characters. I usually get very creative with shortcut words (e.g. & instead of and, w/ instead of with, intl instead of international) and drop pronouns. I have also seen people break a long tweet into two tweets, like this:1. Love how the waiter at Joe’s Italian Bistro took the time to explain how they braise lamb chops2. Definitely plan on going there again for our anniversary!
I also discussed this issue in Twitter In 30 Minutes, and showed an example of how to creatively cut down a long tweet to the right length. Here’s the long version:
Here’s the short version:
Keep in mind that links, photos, and hashtags will add to the character count, so you need to leave room for those elements if you want to include. them.
One other thing worth noting: I always try to leave at least 13 characters remaining. Why? Because it makes it possible for anyone to retweet my message without going over (“RT @ilamont: ” requires 13 characters.