One of the most difficult parts of using twitter is condensing your thoughts into 140-chracters or less. Although often complained about, the 140-character limit is Twitter’s core feature and differentiates it from other social networking sites.

On top of the character limit, Twitter has a language of it’s own. The abbreviations and lingo are helpful in fitting your thoughts into one simple and powerful tweet, but can be confusing to beginners.

Freelance Tech writer, Lauren Hockenson (@lhockenson), helps rookie Twitter users in her guide to Twitter’s language and acronyms. I thought I’d take the liberty of expanding on Hockenson’s post to do a lawyers guide to Twitter language and acronyms.

  • @ – This symbol is key to communicating on Twitter. Think conversation. When you want to reference or address someone in a tweet, you place this symbol in front of his or her Twitter handle (@kevinokeefe). This is also used when you want to reply to someone. Used in front of someone’s Twitter handle your Tweet will be seen by the person as the vast majority of Twitter users monitor the mentioning of their Twitter handle in this fashion. When using this symbol in front of someone’s Twitter handle at the beginning of a Tweet only the two of you and the Twitter users who follow you both will see the Tweet. Here I am tweeting to Gina Passarella, Senior Staff Reporter for The Legal Intelligencer, letting her know I wish I could be there for Jeffrey Toobin’s talk.

  • It is good practice when sharing a news item or blog post to give attribution to the source. The “@” symbol before someone’s name is the way to give this attribution. Here I am giving attribution to Lauren Bohn whose article was in BusinessWeek. Bohn and BusinessWeek also then have an opportunity to see that I shared their article on Twitter.

  • .@ – This symbol used in front of a Twitter handle (.@kevinokeefe) at the beginning of a Tweet allows all followers of the person Tweeting the message to see the Tweet, as opposed to just the person to whom you are replying and those users who are following both of you.

  • #- Also known as the “hashtag.” Place this symbol before or after a relevant event or keyword in your tweet to categorize the tweet along with others using that word and group Twitter posts together. The hashtag makes it easy for the tweet to show up when someone on Twitter searches a related word or phrase using http://search.twitter.com. When sharing a blog post, lawyers may hashtag a case, news event or conference the tweet focuses on. Here Reuters Legal is referencing the U.S. Supreme Ct. with the hashtag #SCOTUS. By clicking on this hashtag a twitter user can see all recent tweets referencing the Supreme Court. Hashtags are also an excellent way to connect with others at a conference or to follow the conference from afar – just follow the conference hashtag.
  • RT – “retweet” Used when you want to share with your followers a tweet someone else has tweeted. This gives them credit for the tweet and they will see that you were kind enough to share their tweet. This is an excellent way to share with your followers relavant information on your area of law or industry/consumer groups you represent. Retweeting from the media (trade or mass), leading bloggers. or other leading authorities allows you to be discovered by these influencers and amplifiers. In either case you are building a presence as an intelligence agent in your field.

  • MT- “Modified Tweet.” This is used when paraphrasing a tweet originally written by someone else. It’s basically a retweet except that you are modifying the original tweet. I don’t use it, but I see more and more people doing so.
  • DM- Direct message. This is the only way for two users to privately communicate. It is similar to sending an email or Facebook message. “Twitter social code indicates that conversations within a direct message to be handled in confidence, and both users must be following each other in order to initiate a direct message.” If the other user is not following you, you will be unable to send them a direct message.
  • HT or h/t – “Hat Tip.” Placed at the end of a tweet, this is a way of giving credit to another Twitter user for finding a link. It’s also used to give credit to another for being the source of information in a blog post, which post title and link you are now sharing on Twitter.

Most of the above acronyms are automatically displayed in your tweets for you when using the many popular Twitter desktop or mobile applications such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, or Twitterific. Though I don’t use the below acronyms, or even see them being used, Hockenson shared them in her post. I’d suggest limiting there use as others in the legal profession and the audience we engage may be unfamiliar with these acronyms.

  • This. – Often paired with a retweet and is used to highlight something you think your followers must see or read.
  • TBH- “To be honest.” There are a couple of ways this is used on Twitter. It is often seen when expressing an opposing opinion, professing a point of view, or to making a point about a topic.
  • OH- “Overheard.” Prefix a tweet with this when sharing something with your followers you heard with your own ears as opposed to having read it on Twitter.
  • ICYMI- “In Case You Missed It.” Use this to share material that has already been published. You could use this when you want to share with followers an older blog post.
  • +1- Similar to the +1 on Google Plus and the “Like” button on Facebook. Place this in a Tweet to promote or endorse it.
  • TL; DR- “Too long; didn’t read.” Originally from Reddit. Used to condense a longer idea into the required 140-characters. Often accompanied with a link to reference the source.
  • SMH – “Shaking my head.” Can be used to express confusion or disappointment either in a sentence or can standalone to comment on a retweet or reference a link.

Good luck out there.