As public relations professionals, we all understand the need for brevity. We learn early on not to say “The person of the male sex strolled to the area that is not here but in another spot.” It’s better to say, “The man walked there.” Nice and easy to digest.
If clarity and simplicity are the pillars of PR, Twitter is the perfect challenge for us. Limiting ourselves to 140 characters is the ultimate test of our slicing and dicing abilities. This challenge is welcomed and, for once, we have a MAXIMUM limit. Well, other than those nine or so characters we keep for re-tweeting (please retweet, please.)
What a perfect way for us to showcase our skills. No silly wording or need for fluff. It’s the Donner Party of characters per post… without the cannibalism.
However, many seem to think that with Twitter being a relatively new concept by limiting characters, requires an abandonment of Associate Press Style.
It doesn’t help that we have so much stacked against us.
The following is my little list of AP rules (or just general rules of thumb) we neglect on Twitter. Note: I am not using this information to go Emily Post-al on anyone. Use this list as a reminder to check your AP Style Book from time to time. We all commit these crimes of writing. I probably have broken countless rules in this article, and I have my style book right next to my computer.
-ALWAYS use the number form for dates
-Abbreviate the months for full dates. Examples: ‘Sept.’ for September, ‘Aug.’ for August, and ‘Dec.’ for December.
-And never use th, st, nd, rd, or any other form of date endings. These are a no-no.
–@PRproLaura: “Wow! The event on Feb. 8 was amazing!”
–@failAPintern: “I cannot believe I have to wait until the fourteenth for free burritos”
2. Commas – Commas are the Anne Hathaway of the writing world; they look great, but are not really good everywhere. And too many just ruins everything.
-Use commas to separate introductions or subordinate clauses.
-Don’t think that more commas better; that can just look as ridiculous as Charlie Sheen stand-up
-@PRproLaura: “Other than pizza, I don’t eat much Italian.”
-@failAPintern: “I really think, that, pending a firing, squad, my day can’t get, much, worse”
3. Abbreviations – A good abbrev. is always handy. In a 140 characters, it’s nice to shorten and save. But don’t go too crazy
-@PRproLaura: “I can’t wait 2 go 2 Lion King this evening!”
-@failAPintern:“I luv 2 wrt @ my nu dsk bc my job’s awsm. Cldnt we wrt @ FB 2day 2 get peeps?”
4. Active Voice
-Passive voice sounds silly!
-You can make the same point with more clarity and with fewer words.
-@PRproLaura: “I ate the best pizza today”
-@failAPintern: “The best pizza was eaten by me today” (That was harder to write than the “Abbreviations” tweet. Honestly)
-If something is hard to understand, you lose your audience. They’ve already moved on to Facebook or some hilarious YouTube video. Don’t let the funny hamster win. Use active voice.
-A common misconception is that the best way to grab someone’s attention is by being the loudest.
-All caps do not help your point
-If your message is good, don’t use annoying all-caps to ruin it.
-@PRproLaura: “Tickets go on-sale for the dinner with George Clooney tonight!”
What do you think? Is AP style necessary for Twitter? Or do we need to evolve to a new set of Twitter-friendly guidelines? Tweet us @451Heat or leave your comments below!