Would Oscar Wilde be on Twitter?

It may be surprising to some, especially to the media savvy world of PR & Communications, that the power of Twitter is still yet to be universally accepted. For many it is hard to accept how it has transformed both the business and media landscape. The new opportunities it has created strike fear rather than excitement in some (just watch the BBC 4 documentary on the New York Times if you want evidence for this).  Those who are yet to be convinced of PF Twitterits value seem all too keen to criticise its growing popularity at any given opportunity. A recent news story provided a perfect example of this. The Telegraph reported that social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have damaged the art of essay writing. A Professor from Cambridge argued that students essay skills were “going down the plug hole” because of the different writing styles students use to communicate on Twitter and Facebook.

For me this argument has little merit. Unless I’m mistaken, the key message teachers tried to convey regarding essay writing was to be concise and to the point. Teachers discouraged students from being overly wordy and using long drawn out sentences. Surely then, Twitter with its 140 character cap is the perfect exercise to prevent these bad habits. Twitter has forced a generation to deliver messages in a succinct and direct manner, often condensing the information normally possessed in an entire paragraph to just two lines.

Being concise in your writing is a key skill in PR and was a focal point of our training at BlueSky. During our first month we were given Oscar Wilde’s highly acclaimed essay ‘Politics and the English Language’. In this he offers key guidelines for how to improve your writing. He states that one should ‘never use a long word where a short one will do’, and ‘if it is possible to cut a word out, then always do so.’ Surely if we want to adopt Mr Wilde’s advice, then forcing us to communicate in less than 140 characters would be the perfect practice for this?

Now I would hope for the detractors out there, Oscar Wilde offers sufficient backing for the value of keeping your writing concise. So, for those who remain fearful and unconvinced of the Twitter revolution, can we finally accept that Twitter is here to stay?  It’s not going away, and while its popularity grows we should reap all of its many rewards.

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