Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hey, Twitter May Not Be As Dumb As You Think!

Yes, I know, everybody mocks Twitter for being a black hole of narcissism. But I have a confession: using Twitter has taught me a surprising amount about writing.

Here's an example: when I tweet a link to one of my posts at Casual Kitchen, I build my tweet around one of the most forceful and engrossing lines from the article. I choose the best line from the post, a line that will grab readers and make them want to read.

But wait: if that one line is so forceful and engrossing, and if it really grabs readers, why didn't I lead with that line in the first place? This single insight has made me reshape and reconfigure countless articles.

Another example: How difficult is it to convey an insightful thought in 140 characters?

Forget all the truly vapid tweets (e.g., Look everybody @ what I 8 2day! So delish!). What I'm talking about is how to ask a provocative question or make a provocative statement that invites similarly provocative responses.

You have to boil down your thoughts severely, use carefully selected words that are clear (and short), and limit the scope of what you say to a bare minimum.

Imagine if we were to edit everything we write with that same discipline and care.

These are two extremely useful ideas I've learned from Twitter. What about you?