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Short and Tweet: Attention Grabbers on Twitter Share Universal Wisdom

Copywriter Joshua Allen says of his Twitter presence: "I never want my tweets to rely on specific context. I want them to be something anyone could read and understand."
Copywriter Joshua Allen says of his Twitter presence: "I never want my tweets to rely on specific context. I want them to be something anyone could read and understand." (Washington Post Photo Illustration; Images From The Web)

"Flowers, sailor suit, flask, proof of employment, Ativan. OK, I think I'm ready for Mother's Day."

And:

"If I jump out of the car now I'll probably break my leg but at least I won't have to think of something nice to say about her scrapbooking."

Fireland is Denver copywriter Joshua Allen. The scrapbooking detail is incidental to the story -- this tweet is more about universal gender differences: Girl wants to talk, confrontation-averse Guy doesn't want to hurt her feelings.

"I never want my tweets to rely on specific context," Allen says. "I want them to be something anyone could read and understand."

That's a primary difference between Twitter and, say, texting or Facebook status updates. Both of the latter are based on reciprocity and personal knowledge. Tweets, on the other hand, are one-sided -- sent out to people you may not know, with the goal of attracting more people you may not know. "It's more of a performance," Allen says.

For example: "Alexis has to go pee in a cup at the doctor's office" is actually a terrific Facebook status update -- if you know that Alexis is pregnant and this is a very positive doctor visit.

As a Twitter post, it would be a complete failure. It's at once too vague and too specific. A good pregnancy tweet would say something about pregnancy in general, or about doctors in general, or better yet, about excitement and anticipation.

Make It Count

For the fleet-fingered and adventurous, individual tweets are merely a starting place. Writer Matt Richtel recently tweeted an entire novel (a "twiller," he called it) about a guy who wakes up with amnesia and begins to think that he might have committed murder. Its brief installments read like disjointed interior monologues, peppered with the misspellings common in real tweets (sorry, Oscar de la Renta!):

"back to blond. inhale her oscar de la rente. memory pierces amnesia; saw her once with bloody hands. Where? Jesus. Gin please. Please."

Drama is necessary, lest some astute Twitter critic (twitic?) respond to your masterpiece with a posting like this recent one, from blondediva11: "Your tweet was 'cute' but it had some dull stretches."

Is Richtel's novel quality writing? Debatable.


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