My goal to learn something new every day
With a limit of just 140 characters, composing tweets on Twitter can be a challenging task. It certainly helps you to be concise, and cut out a lot of waffle. I’m sure it’s good for students to practice being succinct and for helping to look up synonyms. There’s a lot of discussion online about the 140-character limit, with some people referring to it as an art form, and others complaining about the draconian limit. Some believe that the 140-character limit is sufficient for Twitter, and that anything longer should be a blog post. Whatever you may think, if you use Twitter, after a while, you’ll probably become an expert at communicating your complete message in as few words as possible.
There are a lot of hints and tips out there to help people reduce the number of characters used in their tweets. Things such as using ‘&’ instead of ‘and’, choosing shorter synonyms, using numerals instead of written numbers, and (although one I try to avoid) lots of text speak. I think that’s a great idea might become thnk thts gr8. Because I use my Twitter account mainly for more professional, ELT PD-related reasons, I try to avoid text speak as much as possible.
Sometimes, especially during Twitter chats, I’ll resort to spreading a message across two (or even three) tweets. But even then you may be pushing it on the character limit. When spreading a message across multiple tweets, it can be a good idea to let people know somehow. Adding (1/2) is one way to do this. But that takes up six precious characters (six because you need the space before the opening bracket). Removing the brackets gives you back two more spaces. But there are just those times when you’ve done everything you can to shorten the tweet, and you’re still a couple of characters short. In the past, I’ve added ‘…’ to the end/start of a tweet, which I think also adequately shows that tweets are part of a series. But it’s still not much better, because it’s taking up three characters. If you put it at the start and end of a middle tweet, it takes up six! What do do?
Fortunately today, I found you can achieve the same effect as the three dots by using just one character, clawing back those last couple of characters. When you type . . . on your phone, keyboard, etc. that’s three characters. We might call this ellipsis, and it’s most often how we type it in a Word document (have you ever noticed how when you type the three dots in Word, they physically change, only slightly, but there is a change as they move closer together). However, as I was playing around on Twitter on my phone today, I noticed something. In the special characters/numbers option on my keyboard (this comes up when I press the ‘123’ on my keyboard), if I long press the dot/period/full stop button, I see this:
At first, I thought ‘What’s the point?’. Surely it’s much simpler to just type the three dots out, rather than having to change the keyboard screen and long press the dot. But being the curious soul I am, I decided to do it anyway. And that’s when I noticed something magical:
Can you see it? Notice the three dots, and then the character count at the top next to the tweet button. Three dots, but only one character used. I was genuinely really excited when I saw that. I did some testing here and here, just to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, and I can confirm that the three dots do indeed take up just one character. In fact, it appears that what you see is not actually three dots, but rather just a single character.
You may also have noticed that the keyboard in the screenshot above is not the standard keyboard that comes with Samsung Android phones. The Samsung keyboard is, in my opinion, really not that good
but one of the advantages of being on Android is the ability to download keyboards from the Play Store (sorry iPhone users)(Looks like Apple does now allow users to download third-party keyboards as of iOS 8). I did briefly switch back to the Android default keyboard to check, but couldn’t see any way of using the ellipsis. So as far as I can tell, it’s a character that comes with the keyboard I have installed on my device.
For anyone wondering, the keyboard I use is Swiftkey, and it’s available for Android and Apple devices, for free. I’ve not used it on an Apple device, so I can only assume that the ellipsis will also be available on iPhones. It might seem like overkill to download a whole new keyboard to save just two characters on Twitter, but trust me, if you’re using the default keyboard on Android, you’ll thank me after changing. Even if you don’t use twitter.
So there you have it. A 4580-character post to describe a tiny discovery that can save you a mere two characters in a tweet!