12 Jan 2009

8 Spelling & Grammar Rules You Can Break on Twitter

Lisa and I are on the same page about grammar and spelling, how it’s necessary to follow rules in order to be understood.  As much as it pains me to say it, there are rules for writing that you’re allowed to break when you use Twitter.  Because 140 characters just isn’t enough for proper English sometimes.

  1. Sentence fragments.

    You don’t need to use complete sentences on Twitter.  Why?  Because you don’t always need a subject and a verb to express what you’re trying to say.  Conscious use of sentence fragments can help convey emotion and tone as well.

  2. ALL CAPS.

    It’s annoying when you do it in your instant messages. It’s illegible when you type an entire email that way. It’s unprofessional when you do it on your website. But sometimes you just need to add emphasis to what you’re tweeting about, and bold/italics aren’t options.

  3. Emote.

    Usually relegated to chat rooms, it’s perfectly acceptable to emote on Twitter. But since there’s no /emote function, you have to punctuate it yourself. Square brackets, fake HTML tags, and asterisks have all been used to pull this off. This is a corollary to the sentence fragment allowance.

  4. Missing punctuation.

    While you don’t want to do this in pretty much any other form of online communication, we understand when you leave off terminal punctuation once in a while. As long as you’re not stringing together sentences that would be incomprehensible without the appropriate punctuation, we still know what you mean.

  5. Extra punctuation.

    We’ve got fat fingers, too. So we’ll file your two or four periods under “unconventional” usage. But leave some question marks and exclamation points for the rest of us!!!!

  6. no caps.

    Yeah, we’re lazy, too. Or maybe we’re eating at our desks and tweeting one handed, so it really would be a hardship to periodically hit the shift key.

  7. Overuse of ellipsis…

    I’ll admit that I didn’t even realize that it was possible to use those three little dots too many times, until someone pointed out that I was doing it in my fiction writing. Sometimes you can use a dash or a comma in place of an ellipsis. And you really shouldn’t use of them in a row… But we’ll forgive you if you do it on Twitter.

  8. Not a word.

    This is what pains me the most. Because really – shuld, b, and hr aren’t really words. Neither are 2, u, or ya.  I will only grant exceptions (because, you know, I’m the Twitter grammar police) if you can’t fit the whole word in under the 140 character limit. I’ll also grant you special dispensation if you can haz anything.

Have I missed anything? Are there other written word rules that are generally acceptable to break on Twitter? Am I too permissive? Do you just want to smack me for being a grammar snob?  Sound off!