Tips for Abbreviating on Twitter (and Staying Professional!)

by Kerry Martin

Keeping within Twitter’s 140 character limit is an everyday challenge for users who have more substantial things to say than “I just ousted so-and-so as mayor of Who-cares-ville.”

For communications professionals who help manage a client’s corporate social media presence, it’s even harder to make formal announcements and share news that is concise enough to stay within the limit, while still keeping a consistent and professional voice for the organization.

While I agree that twitter is an informal and conversational medium, I also don’t think that abbreviations like ”b4” and “l8r” should be used in communication coming from an actual company.  My general rule of thumb is: if your tween daughter would text it to her bff Jill, it doesn’t belong in a professional tweet.  (Of course, it also depends on whether your brand does communicate with audiences like that).

So, I’ve compiled a list of recommended ways to shorten tweets while still staying professional.  This list is not comprehensive and follows no agreed-upon list that is already in the blogosphere; it’s just my humble opinion (and some suggestions from other C&P staff—thanks team!).

Acceptable Abbreviations Gray Area
The obvious:  “&” for “and”;

“1st, 2nd, 3rd” for nominal numbers

Days and Months:  Sat. 9/24 or Sept. 24

I happen to think “w/” for “with” makes sense

(w/o for “without” our w/in for “within”)

Contractions:  They’re great!  (just make sure to use correctly)
Most units of measurement:  min., hr, sq ft, M/B and Mil/Bil can be difficult without proper context (like $ signs)
Company, business: use “firm” instead “biz” and “org” are okay too
State Abbreviations:  people will know “NY” and “TX” Sorry, Hawaii, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Oregon – you might confuse people
Standard business language:  “Execs” “pros” “mgmt” “Int’l” “mtg”
People: ppl
Facebook: FB
“Thx” (good to use when acknowledging followers) “Pls” is another abbreviation that works well with context (“pls RT” for example)

Also, another good tip is to leave enough room in your tweet so that someone could retweet it.  That means your tweet has to be enough characters under 140 so that it can fit “RT @userhandle: “, or 6 characters + the characters in your twitter handle.

Don’t overuse abbreviations so that your tweets are too choppy to understand.

Twitter is used to convey meaningful content through short messages—it’s up to you to compose intelligible ideas that get your point across.

Think back to some of the questions you should ask yourself when communicating:  What do you want them to know?  What do you want them to do?


2 Responses to Tips for Abbreviating on Twitter (and Staying Professional!)

  1. Thank you so much for mentioning “leaving room for a possible reTweet.” It makes me bonkers when people don’t take this into consideration. In fact, if I have to edit a Tweet I’m interested in reTweeting, I usually just abandon the reTweet altogether.

    Nice post.

  2. Joshua says:

    I 2nd that Ashley! Make it easy for me to help spread your message. If I have to work at it, I will likely just look to RT someone else who has posted similar content.

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