A Crash Course in the Language of Twitter
If you remember being a little baffled by Twitter the first time you tried it, you’re not alone. It is baffling.
Sometimes, you can understand everything in a tweet, like this one:
But other tweets are filled with codes, shorthand, and weird formatting — which nobody bothers to explain.
Before we dive in, though, remember that a tweet can’t be more than 140 characters long. (Why? Because in Twitter’s original conception, tweets were intended to arrive on cellphones as text messages, and those are limited to 160 characters. The Twitter inventors reserved 20 characters for the Twitter member’s name.)
That limitation forces people to be concise, to be creative — and, sometimes, to develop these complex conventions.
Suppose, for example, that you see a tweet like this:
This single tweet contains four examples of Twitter conventions:
• @SFGate. The @ symbol indicates a Twitter member’s name. I’m @pogue, for example. This tweet also mentions Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors. His Twitter name is, of course, @elonmusk.
• RT @SFGate. RT stands for retweet. So Debbie here is repeating (that is, retweeting) somebody else’s tweet — in this case, she’s retweeting something said by @SFGate. (SFGate is an online arm of the San Francisco Chronicle.)