Use Twitter to Refine Your Writing

Twitter_logoAs a prematurely old person (that is, I’m technically 34, but I make a suspicious number of references to “those damn kids” and know the difference between e.g. and i.e.), I can be wary of social media. Still, I’ve found one way Twitter is really useful for the writers I advise: forced brevity.

Off the top of my head, I have two approaches to using Twitter to guide writing, and I’d be happy to hear others’ ideas.

  1. Use Twitter (or just its 140-character limit) to find your lede. That is, what’s the catchy selling point of your article? How would you draw in readers? Trust me, the first sentence of your abstract isn’t going to draw page views (let alone keep eyes on the page once they get there). Think hard, revise, and rewrite your opening line.
  2. Use Twitter to find your point. If you’re brutal, you really should be able to get an article’s point into a Tweet. What’s the essential core of your article? You have a whole paper to discuss your methods, delve into a thorough lit review, and otherwise prove your legitimacy as an expert on this topic. But you should only need a sentence or two to tell people what the paper is about.

Both of these ideas come back to thinking of your article in terms of how you’d tell your mom or kid or next door neighbor what you’re writing about this semester. What context would make it as interesting for them as it is for you? And how could you say it across the fence? That’s a lot of rhetorical questions for an editor who doesn’t like them, so trust that I’m being both serious and off-the-cuff here. Oh, and I’m on Twitter @lettapage.

This piece has been updated from the original, which appeared on TheSocietyPages.org in 2013.