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Twitter guide: Express yourself in 140 characters

social media Updated: Sep 24, 2012 16:20 IST


Users of Twitter, the ultimate medium in succinct social interaction, have been coming up with some creative ways to express themselves in 140 characters or less. Below is a guide to some of the many terms and symbols you might encounter on the microblogging site.

Using the @ symbol
So you have set up your Twitter account, chosen a username and Twitter handle -- the name that is preceded with a "@" symbol (@twitter, for example) -- and you can get ready to send your first tweets. While tweets without the "@" symbol join the stream of millions of tweets being sent around the world, those with the symbol can be directed to specific people or lists of people. For example, to express one's love of Lady Gaga to the artist herself, one could type "@ladygaga I love your music" -- though the "@username" can be inserted anywhere within the tweet. To direct a message to more than one person simply use more than one "@" symbol -- "@ladygaga, @justinbieber I love your music" for example.

To check the celebrity you are tweeting is really who they claim to be look for the "tick" symbol next to the account name which indicates Twitter has verified the account; note regular Twitter users do not have this symbol next to their account.

Joining in with #
Want to join in with a conversation on Twitter? Then the hashtag (#) is your friend. The # ties tweets together around a common topic, allowing users to follow all the tweets about a certain topic. For example, if #LadyGaga were trending and one wished to join in with this trend, one would use the hashtag followed by the message -- for example "#LadyGaga nominated for an EMA." Twitter has a constantly changing list of the top ten trending topics along the left hand side of the site, many of which uses the # symbol and typically reflect current news topics or trends.

Basic abbreviations

DM vs. RT
DM and RT are probably the two most commonly used Twitter abbreviations, DM stands for direct message and RT for retweet. Sending a direct message makes the conversation private between two Twitter users and text shared in this way is not visible in the Twitter stream. In order to send a DM both users must be following each other. A retweet is a way a sharing tweets that you find interesting. Users can retweet other users regardless of whether or not they follow each other.

More advanced abbreviations

Those familiar with text message or IM speak are probably aware that "TBH" stands for To Be Honest and is typically used to express an opinion; the acronym is also popular among Twitter users.

OH stands for "overheard" and is typically used by Twitter users to refer to an anonymous source; for example: "OH @ladygaga drops song with @justinbieber #exciting" (she hasn't).

This spillover from Google+ is used on Twitter as one would use a "like" on Facebook, in that it indicates approval for a tweet or piece of news.

| is typically used to separate out statements in Tweets or to separate the retweeters' comments from the tweet they are retweeting; for example "Can't believe this | link to article."

A comprehensive guide to Twitter acronyms was published by on September 15.

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