Tweeting your way into the news

or, 280 characters to clarity

A couple weeks ago in the UK, the Daily Mail co-opted a Twitter thread from human rights lawyer Adam Wagner. They turned his post on UK criminal law into an op-ed that they published on their website.  

The usage of tweets in news articles (and the media more broadly) is considered fair use. More interesting, from a communication standpoint, is that the standards for an op-ed and a Twitter thread bear more similarities than you might think.

I can hear you scoff already. Surely, this says more about the Daily Mail’s journalism standards than anything else? Either way, it has some useful lessons for us.

What worked? 

Ultimately, the only reason Wagner’s tweets are acceptable as an op-ed is that they are short, to the point, and display a clear and compelling narrative. The fact that they were originally delivered in a chronological tweetstorm is less relevant than their cohesion and clarity. 

That is a winning combination for any piece of communication, so how can you replicate it?

What’s the lesson?

We’ve talked before about the importance of being succinct. We’ve also written about how having a structure can help capture readers’ attention.

This advice holds true, but the harder part is understanding how to edit yourself when you’re not sure what details are most important to your argument. 

Just as readers (subconsciously) appreciate structure, having a template for yourself can also be useful to help you hone your argument and whittle down copy. 

So, when thinking of what details are important to your message, try to write them into a Twitter thread. This likely won’t be the format you end up using, but it will help you do two things.

First, it will force you to make each point succinctly. Sure, you can go over 280 characters as you draft, but this exercise will help you see how clear you can make each point.

Second, by trying to write your argument into a few tweets, you’ll distinguish what is absolutely necessary to your point and what is only complementary (and can thus be cut).

Happy tweeting.