It may surprise you to learn that Twitter improved my writing skills.
(Take a minute. Quit laughing. Then listen.)
Unless you’ve lived under a rock since 2005, you’ve heard of Twitter. The basics are simple: say whatever is on your mind … in 140 characters or less. Follow the people you find interesting. Ignore the ones you don’t.
It lets you shout barbaric yawps to a world that probably couldn’t care less about the deal you found on soap.
But Twitter also connects individuals who otherwise would never meet. It allows people to discuss their passions – and forces them to speak succinctly in order to be heard. It’s possible to break a thought across multiple tweets, but inconvenient to link them so people generally don’t. The new “conversation tracking” feature allows one-click access to chains of thought, expanding the discussion even further.
When I first started tweeting, I felt constrained by the medium. 140 characters? What can I say with that? As time passed, however, I realized there’s very little a person can’t say with 140 letters and spaces. Saying it well takes forethought and organization, and sometimes revision, but it can be done.
Experience breeds accuracy in every form of writing, and precision in one form bleeds over into the others. The more I used Twitter, the more I found myself thinking succinctly in fiction (and in drafting contracts too). I don’t revise to the shortest possible form in every case. Sometimes length and cadence offer benefits of their own. That said, the ability to state objective clearly and concisely enables the author to obfuscate by choice instead of ignorance.
A valuable skill indeed.
Don’t believe me? Spend some time in the Twitterverse. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of “leetspeak” (words like L8R for “later”) or abbreviations. Force yourself to speak with proper grammar only, and to complete every thought in a single tweet. It will change the way you look at language – your own and others’ as well.
And in case you doubt me – every sentence in this post would have fit in a single Tweet. 140 or less. Learn to write short, and it will help you with writing long.