In On War, Carl von Clausewitz, a professional Prussian soldier, divided military activities into strategy and tactics. Strategy involves the general goals of an operation; tactics are the details for getting there. For soldiering, a set of basic skills is also assumed: polishing boots, marching in formation, caring for weapons, and so on.
Business writing can similarly be divided into strategy, tactics, and basic skills. Much of what UpWrite Press shares on this blog and in our newsletters is strategic: using an AIDA approach for persuasive writing, for example. We also often share basic skills in grammar, punctuation, and correct word use.
Today I’d like to focus on a tactical issue: using Twitter to develop effective sentence style.
Why Twitter? It’s because of that 140-character limit. Writing within such constraints forces us to carefully weigh every word, every phrase. (Note, I originally wrote that as “forces us to consider every word, every phrase, very carefully”—nine wasted characters.) With practice, that conciseness becomes habit—if not during a first draft, certainly when editing.
- For best practice, write your “Tweets” (Twitter messages) in full words, without online abbreviations like “L8R” (“later”).
- It’s also best to leave enough characters for a “Retweet.” For example, UpWrite Press Tweets are usually 127 characters or less, to leave room for the 13 characters in “RT @UpWrite: ” (including the space after the colon).
- Finally, if your Tweet includes a hyperlink, try to place that in the middle of the message, where it’s less likely to get cut off if multiple people Retweet your message.
A well-crafted Tweet can pack a lot of punch in a short line of text. Practice at Tweeting can improve our writing clarity and editing speed for other business documents. That alone makes it worthwhile. Given that it also promotes your brand presence, if you aren’t Tweeting, it may be time to start.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons