Word Choice – Developing a Twitter Voice that People Want to Hear

I’ve been spending some time puzzling over why I love to follow  some Twitter accounts but others, even though they are sharing and promoting great ideas, I find  a little off-putting.

I’ve realised that for me, it comes down to word choice.

Accounts that I enjoy following tend to use reflective and inclusive language. They offer solutions and ideas, rather than telling. They’ll preface a comment with ”  I think…” or they’ll offer a solution with “This might…” or ” What if …”

I like that language because it’s open. People can take or leave the advice. It’s respects diversity, provides space for other opinions and remains humble while sharing expertise and ideas.

The accounts I find off putting tend to make  frequent use of authoritative language:”Teachers should, must, need to”

They also make frequent use of evaluative language: “correct”.

Both types of language seem to position the Tweeter as a higher authority. Someone who is there to tell and to make judgements.

In real life, we tend only to use that type of language when we are in a role of positional authority, such as a principal or other school leader. Even then, we tend to use it sparingly.

In our real life interactions it is rare to go to our colleagues and say to them “You should be doing x in your classroom.”

With colleagues, we tend to be more moderate in our language. We suggest, encourage and share, but we don’t tell, command or judge. Rather than saying “you should” we would make a suggestion, “Have you thought of trying..” or “Here’s a strategy that may help”.

And so, as I continue to tweet and blog, I’m going to endeavour to address my colleagues in the same way I would speak to them. As a colleague on an equal footing not as an authority.

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12 thoughts on “Word Choice – Developing a Twitter Voice that People Want to Hear

  1. Well put. I’d also noticed that I was more likely to follow some feeds more closely than others – but never really put much thought into why.

    Every teacher should read this post! 😉

  2. Great advice, Corinne. I think I’m often guilty of this on twitter. Being teachers, we often spend so much time considering our language, its tone, modality, all of that. But on Twitter, with the word limits, I’m often trying to cram thoughts into each tweet and the crafting of language is lost. Perhaps it’s the same for many of us?
    Thanks for the food for thought.

    • Hi Rob,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I follow you on Twitter and I’ve never noticed you doing that, so I wouldn’t think you’re often guilty of it. The point you make about 140 characters makes sense, and I also think that often can lead to misunderstandings on Twitter. That’s why I nerdishly enjoy looking at the feeds of people who manage to tweet so well – I’m learning a lot from seeing how they go about it.

  3. Thanks Corinne!
    Being a word nerd is only natural. We see so much work in progress, it’s only natural we might want to see the elite level as well! Keep up the nerdiness!
    It might be inappropriate, but it would be great to see a curated list of ‘expert wordsmiths in 140 characters’.

  4. Hi Corinne, your post has got me thinking about what I look for when I decide to follow someone on Twitter. Your final example is actually someone I unfollowed because there was no connection for me, what I was reading was actually too thought out. I like reading things that challenge my thinking a bit – and my irregularity on Twitter is directly linked to the fact I don’t just want to post something for the sake of it or just to be visible. I must admit that the quickest way for me to cut the virtual cord on Twitter is for someone to be a serial re-tweeter. Either be original or take a break is usually my reaction. What I like about your tweets is a refreshing honesty and curiosity – it counterbalances my own tendency towards skepticism and general weirdness.

    • Hi Graham, thanks for your comment and yes I see your point about the lack of connection with some of the big name tweeters like the one I mentioned. I also like to have my thinking challenged, and sometimes the sameness of my feed, with endless RTs that don’t add to the conversation becomes frustrating. I really enjoy those voices that are real – not hiding behind careful corporate speak. Thank you for the feedback in my tweets – that’s a lovely thing to say as it’s always hard to know how one comes across to others. I have to say, I always enjoy a bit of skepticism and weirdness from you!

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