Twitter vs Language

Do you use Twitter?

I’ve become a bit of a keen user on it over the past year. From not being aware of it at all, to now running several accounts on it, I’ve certainly become accustomed.

People who know me well will know I am a keen blogger, writing in a variety of forms from interviews to to-do lists. I find writing is the best way of remembering certain details – getting things down on paper seems somehow to cement them – and, of even higher importance, writing helps to maintain the English language.

With my passion for writing and my account on Twitter, the relationship between the two has revealed itself to be extremely interesting. The physical space of 140 characters allows experimentation of language, but also ensures you are completely restricted. The 140 gives only a small taster of a larger, existing story; but, in one sentence, must also say everything.

The task of writing within a fixed amount of characters is a huge test of your ability to use words and their forms. Similarly, managing your structure while maintaining your audience’s interest is difficult – but essential. Though Twitter encourages editing (you are forced to fit words into a small space, rather than letting loose over the space of several paragraphs), this should not mean you are having to compromises on style, writing ability or quality.

When writing a novel, article or interview – in fact, anything in the written form – it will always tend to be geared towards a specific audience, written in such a manner as to ensure this audience is reached. Twitter is no different; it must stick to these more traditional writing rules, just with a new structure, new constraints and using new technology.

Andrew Fitzgerald, writer, editor and tweeter, spoke about the possibilities of Twitter in his talk ‘Adventures in Twitter Fiction’. During his time working for Twitter, he met and worked with authors who used the networking site as a way of connecting to an audience. He said, “a new media defines a new format, which then defines new stories.”

A more visual version of the written language, which conforms with new technological platforms, Twitter represents how we are moving forward in our tech-evolution. It is a creative experiment that ensures we keep up to date with every different type of communication.

Written entirely in the Twitter format, author Jennifer Egen’s Black Box was featured in The New Yorker. She used the physical space constraints as a way of structuring her short story. Not only did it provide a new way of experiencing a novel, but it was also an experiment that showed Twitter’s evolution and how it had broken through the more traditional novel form.

When asked about her intentions and hopes for Black Box, she described, “a story whose shape would emerge from the lessons the narrator derived from each step in the action, rather than from descriptions of the action itself.”

Can you imagine reading a book through tweets? Seem strange because it is a format that goes directly against the norm of a physical book, anticipating the length of the given tweet in the telling of its story, but fascinating nonetheless.

Writing is to be enjoyed; it provides a way of learning and developing the language, but also evolves alongside and within the formats that technology has given us today. A true challenge of the above would be to try writing an article or story in a new format, one that provides restrictions, tests your structure and limits your word allowances.

We’ve all got a story to tell, but could you make yours fit into those 140 characters?

Article by Nicola Manuel

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