Make. Every. Word. Count.

Could Strunk and White have been the first tweeters?

Prescient by 50 or so years, their grammar-geek bible The Elements of Style commanded, “Omit needless words.”

Vigorous writing, they say, is concise.

This is what I tell all the writers who ask me about Twitter; my favourite part of micro-blogging.

That 140-character limit is one of the coolest ways for writers to exercise their brevity skills. That blank box is a challenge as thrilling – and as daunting – as the classic blank page.

How to say something witty/informative/helpful/interesting in 140, accounting for spaces, periods, commas, URLs, etc.? How to distill your brilliant repartee into a sound byte? How not to sound trite, hackneyed, pretentious or just plain stupid?

As the character countdown adjusts with your every keystroke, it’s the New Year’s ball at Times Square or the wait for a bachelor to hand out his final rose – an agonizing, breath-holding moment. It taunts me: C’mon, Sherry. Write the tweet of the century. Think you can beat me? Bring it!

I find myself sometimes thinking in tweets as I go about my day. Like: You know you’re old when … you find yourself singing along at the grocery store. Or: No, thanks, McDonald’s. Two crap for the price of one is not better than no crap for the price of none.

When I ultimately sit down in front of the laptop (or the computer at work – shhh!) to share my thoughts and observations, I watch that minus sign with a sense of dread. Am I going to make it? Can I convey this essential message to humanity within Twitter’s parameters?

Then I go back to see where I can trim or how I can re-phrase without losing the intended message. It forces me to think succinct. To make every word count. And that’s sound technique for any writer, in any genre, for any format.

Which begs the question: Could @biz and @ev be the next Strunk and White?


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