A recent XKCD webcomic shared the new reality of social communications from political figures:
Summary: Tweeting a complete, grammatically correct sentence makes you sound like a teenager, while texting abbreviations and poor grammar make you sound like a senator.
The (presumably fictional, but familiar) senator was being brief, a hallmark of messages on Twitter. Unfortunately, it fails the more important test of all communication: clarity. Some readers have no trouble parsing text-speak, but it’s an impediment for most.
Editing a short message can take time and talent. For example, a recent tweet from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy takes some work to clean up:
An #iotd for our #TOTD RT @nasa: [Image of the Day] Bolden, Musk and the Dragon http://go.nasa.gov/Ku00nJ #iotd
As another tweet commented later: “It took 15 Web clicks to find out what one acronym meant. How many clicks would you make before giving up?” A version withought the acronym challenge is possible, though:
An image of the day for our thought of the day: @NASA Administrator Bolden, Elon Musk and the Dragon http://go.nasa.gov/Ku00nJ #TOTD #iotd
Only 134 characters to say the same thing clearly, including additional context and both hashtags. That would have been a mess if expanded automatically, though; it takes effort to tease out the important words, add context, and trim away the excess.
Luckily for writers, the federal Plain Language website provides guidelines for clear writing, including reasons to encourage it and a fascinating list of quotes. (The title of this post is an old adage from that list.)
Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.
– Charles Mingus
Even if you’re a master of plain-language writing in print or on websites, here are a few guidelines of my own for using plain language in social media:
- As with any jargon, use hashtags sparingly. They help tie a group of messages together (at a conference, for example), but don’t use them for every #noun in your #message. #Seriously.
- Avoid abbreviations and texting-speak. Social media uses a lot of slang, but clear, plain language is still the norm.
- Links provide details, but you provide context. A link by itself is an empty message.
- Write and edit a social-media message just like any other text: complete the thought first, then edit down to size.
- Save characters by removing calls to action. “Click here”, “please share this”, and “like us” are less important than your message.
- jedsundwall likes this
- bestpracticesfororgs reblogged this from measuredvoice and added:
- measuredvoice posted this