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.

tweet data

Retweets increase with word count—to a point. You’ll get the most retweets if your tweets are between 70 and 110 characters, according to Track Social research. Source: TrackSocial


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:

tweet data

#Hashtags work … But don’t overuse them. Source: Buffer

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.

readability data

Light reading. Want to be retweeted? Aim for about 6.5 on the Flesch-Kincaid Index for the most retweetable tweets. Source: Dan Zarella

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.

tweet word types

Don’t change the subject. Newsy, headline-style tweets—subject, verb, object—are more likely to go viral. Source: Dan Zarrella

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.

punctuation chart

Punctuate, period. Some 98 percent of retweets contain punctuation; just 86 percent of normal tweets do. So don’t drop the colons, periods and exclamation points. Source: Dan Zarrella

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.

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