Will twitter lose its character over more characters?

Twitter has given us more space. Doubled its character count and given us more words to play with. But is that necessarily a good thing?

BBC Ceefax pageDo you remember Ceefax?

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about – before internet access was commonplace and pre-multi-channel digital TV, Ceefax was a text service for news, sport, weather, and a few games that you could view on your TV set, selecting pages using your remote control.

I wrote local news and sport pages for Ceefax in my time as a BBC journalist. The content of each page was a tightly defined format. A headline and four paragraphs – about 80 words in total. That was all you had to tell a story.

How Ceefax helped me hone my writing skills

To tell a news story that fit onto one screen meant choosing short, simple and effective language. Writing headlines of exactly 33 characters (the space available on the top line), favoured short, powerful words. For example, ‘woe’ when something was wrong, and ‘joy’ when something was right.

It’s a skill I’ve adapted to writing copy for packaging; editing copy for a web page; writing social media posts and even poetry. All important skills for a copywriter.Write a sharp headline. Choose words with impact. How Ceefax helped me hone my writing skills Click To Tweet

Why more words don’t necessarily mean better communication

twitter and other social media iconsTwitter was different. In a proliferation of multimedia, its short and pithy format was easy to consume.

It looked easy. Anyone could write 140 characters. But those who did it well proved masters of it.

The irony is that as twitter expands its character limits, it risks losing some of its distinctive character as a social media platform.

Constraints liberate. Faced with a blank page, the possibilities can seem so endless and overwhelming that we fail to make a mark.

Tell yourself you only have to write four paragraphs, 80 words, and suddenly it seems a lot less daunting. But it forces you to consider every word and choose it carefully.

Being able to say more isn’t always a good thing. Being restrained means you focus on what matters. Clear messages require clear language. And in my book, that means keeping it simple.

As twitter expands its character limits, it risks losing some of its distinctive character. Click To Tweet

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