What’s In a Tweet? Optimal Tweet Lengths and Readability for 2020
By: Ann Wylie, President, Wylie Communications
December 30, 2019
Sure, Twitter has a relatively new 280-character limit. But just because Twitter doubled its 140-character limit doesn’t mean you should use all of them.
So what’s the ideal length of a tweet? A hashtag? How else can you make your tweets more readable and engaging? Let’s look at the research:
1. How long should tweets be?
So you’ve written your blog post, and now you want to get the word out on Twitter. How long should your tweet be? 190 characters? Longer than 140 characters?
Turns out medium length performs best.
- Retweets increase with length. You’ll get more retweets if your tweets are 71 to 100 words, according to a Track Social study of 100 well-known brands popular on Twitter.
- Engagement goes down with word count. Tweets shorter than 100 words get 17 percent higher engagement, according to research by Buddy Media.
The solution? Aim for about 100 characters.
100 characters on Twitter is the new black. Here’s what 100 characters looks like, including spaces.
2. How long should Twitter hashtags be?
What about hashtags? We’ve all seen social media writers use 140 characters to 280 on hashtags. So how long is too long?
Let’s look at the research:
- Use hashtags, according to research by Buffer Media. Tweets with hashtags get twice the engagement of tweets without them.
- But don’t overuse them. Tweets with one or two hashtags get 21 percent higher engagement than those without, Buffer found. But engagement drops when you add more.
- Make them short. Keep them to 6 characters or less, recommends Vanessa Doctor from Hashtags.org.
3. What’s the best reading grade level for Twitter?
Retweets average scored 6.47 on the Flesh-Kincaid Index, according to Dan Zarrella, HubSpot’s viral marketing scientist. Random tweets scored even lower: 6.04 years on the Flesch-Kincaid Index.
Zarrella should know. He spent nine months analyzing 5 million tweets and 40 million retweets to find what makes some messages travel the world while others just stay home on the couch.
To make sure your tweets get retweeted, aim for sixth to seventh grade level on the Flesch test. Don’t like your score? Reduce your grade level by shortening sentence and word length.
4. Any secrets for sentences on Twitter?
Zarrella also found that retweets are heavier on nouns, proper nouns and third-person verbs than tweets in general. That suggests that newsy, headline-style tweets—subject, verb, object—are more likely to go viral.
Want to see your tweet go viral? Write mostly simple sentences.
And don’t drop the punctuation. Some 98 percent of retweets contain some form of punctuation, compared with 86 percent of normal tweets, Zarrella found.
So don’t forget the colons, periods, commas and hyphens. But do forget semicolons—”the only unretweetable punctuation mark,” according to Zarrella.
5. How long should words be on Twitter?
Retweets actually have more syllables than ordinary tweets—1.62 syllables per word vs. 1.58, Zarrella found. Outside the Twitterverse, experts suggest aiming for two-syllable words, so both measures are still, understandably, simple.
Want your tweets to spread? Write mostly in one- and two-syllable words.
And skip the slang. Lazy language like lol, gonna and hey are among the 20 least retweetable words in the English language, Zarrella found. So cut the vernacular.
Ann Wylie is president of Wylie Communications. She works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. Learn more about her training, consulting or writing and editing services.