Wow, that was bad: 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form


I’ve been enjoying using Twitter recently — mostly for work related issues — and when I saw a book that was called ‘a style guide for the short form’, I thought that this would be interesting.

Unfortunately 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form isn’t a style guide, nor is it really that interesting. The book itself seems to be written on Twitter as each of the sentences is a short declarative statement, often without much regard to the overall context of the chapter. Turns out that this ‘style’ is very annoying to read in a book format.

Regarding style there have been almost no stylistic advice in the first half of the book. Does ‘don’t tweet while drunk’ count as a style comment? Or does recommending not to put two spaces after a period in a post? Perhaps the latter was useful but only if you really don’t understand how to count.

The Economist publishes a version of their style guide on-line. I think their introduction below provides a much better set of rules to follow than anything you’ll find in 140 Characters:

Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible. Keep in mind George Orwell’s six elementary rules (“Politics and the English Language”, 1946):

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.