Thursday, April 8, 2010


The lovely and talented Jody Hedlund had a great post recently that got me thinking: what is proper etiquette on Twitter, aka, Twetiquette!

First of all, a quick look at my journey into Twitterville. From the first moment I heard of Twitter, I was dead-set against it. Who needs another form of social networking? Not me, that's for sure! For [not] the first time in my life, I was dead wrong. Last June I went kicking and screaming into heaven.

As some of you know, I partially [totally] owe my finding agent representation to Twitter. Awesome Agent aka Bernadette Baker-Baughman of Baker's Mark Literary Agency liked the back and forth banter we were engaged in on Twitter, checked out my blog, and the rest, as they say, is history.

There are many different reasons people fly the bird [not to be confused with "give the bird"] to Twitterville, but most go to find people who share common interests. For the purpose of this post, I'll limit my discussion to the writing community, since that's the one I'm most familiar with. (I dabble in politics on Twitter, but that's a whole 'nother conversation!)

So, what's acceptable and what's not? Here's my take.

DISCLAIMER: These are MY OPINIONS only. (Spoiler Alert!) You may love spouting the "eff" word in Twitterland, and no one can/will stop you. They may unfollow you, but they can't stop you. Why? There are no hard and fast rules in Twitterville.

Let's start with what IS acceptable:

1) Be positive!
Give encouragement and acknowledge the accomplishments of yourself and others. Spread the cheer.

2) Be informative.
Tweet and retweet things that matter to the writing community. Examples include new agent announcements, Publisher's Marketplace articles, pub dates for yourself and others, and links to other writer's blog posts you find interesting (hint, hint). What you find interesting, others probably will, too.

3) Direct Message.
Direct Messages, or DM's, will be seen by your eyes and the eyes of who you are tweeting only. It's basically an email. Use DM's when you have something to say that is private, or if you're having a conversation and you don't want to "bother" all of the Twitosphere with it. Not everyone needs/wants to hear everything you have to say.

4) Tweet News, etc.
Earthquakes, election results, publishing-related news, music, TV shows, pictures of your cat, Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey breaking up - things of utmost importance that no one can go another minute without knowing. These are all appropriate to tweet. People like to be informed and entertained.

5) Updates on Your Progress.
It's fine to tweet updates on your writing progress such as word counts, agent representation, if you're on submission, book sales, interviews, etc. Just don't overdo it. Twitter isn't your personal stage. It's a community.

6) Bring on the Funny.
Jokes, You Tube videos, and back and forth banter are all okay. Just keep in mind different people have different ideas of what funny is. I, for one, don't think passing gas, in any context, is funny. But that's just me. Obviously many people feel otherwise. Laughter is the best medicine. Let's keep each other healthy!

7) Be Polite.
Say please, and especially, thank you. As in life, there are many opportunities on Twitter to show your gratitude. Don't hold back. Let people know you appreciate them and their many talents. Building people up is one of the greatest gifts you can give. Public acknowledgment is a beautiful thing.

What NOT to do on Twitter:

1) No Whiners.
Do not whine, at least, not excessively. We all have our bad days, and it's okay to request support every now and then. But if you complain frequently about your life circumstances, you may find yourself losing followers. No one likes whiners!

2) Use DM's for Self-Promotion or Welcoming New Followers.
The only thing more annoying than spambots are people who DM to tell you of their new blog posts and pub dates or who "welcome" you as a new follower and "invite" you to go to their website or blog. This is TOTALLY ANNOYING! Use DM's for personal conversations you are sure other people want to have. Period!

3) Language.
Keep your curse words to a minimum. The "eff" word is, for the most part, inappropriate on Twitter, though clearly not everyone agrees. Curse words, in general, are not necessary. I'm not prude, I was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island. However, you take a big chance of offending folks if your language is often sprinkled with profanity. You've only got 140 characters. Why be raunchy?

4) Dissing Others.
Never, ever, EVER dis someone on Twitter. If you've got a personal gripe, find some other way to deal with it. Of course, this doesn't include truly evil people like the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sarah Palin. They deserve all the grief they get. Be kind to others, otherwise, you're the one who ends up looking like the fool.

5) Bodily Functions.
We're not doctors and nurses, we're writers, agents, and editors. Keep the bodily functions to yourselves, whether they're you're kids or your own. (This expounds upon previous "passing gas" comment.) This definitely falls under the category of TMI. No one wants to be grossed out!

6) Just Say "No" to ALL CAPS & EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Need I say more?

7) Don't Twitter Stalk.
Don't stalk people on Twitter. It's probably illegal and just plain weird. We all have our faves, but give people space. The world doesn't need any more paparazzi!

So, folks, there you have it. Twetiquette by Debra L. Schubert. Here's the Cliff Notes version:

  • There are no hard and fast rules in Twitterville.
  • Spread the cheer.
  • What you find interesting, others probably will, too.
  • Not everyone needs/wants to hear everything you have to say.
  • People like to be informed and entertained.
  • Twitter isn't your personal stage. It's a community.
  • Laughter is the best medicine. Let's keep each other healthy!
  • Public acknowledgment is a beautiful thing
  • No one likes whiners!
  • Use DM's for personal conversations you are sure other people want to have. Period!
  • You've only got 140 characters. Why be raunchy?
  • Be kind to others, otherwise, you're the one who ends up looking like the fool.
  • No one wants to be grossed out!
  • Just Say "No" to ALL CAPS & EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • The world doesn't need any more paparazzi!
What did I miss? What are your likes and dislikes on Twitter?


jdcoughlin said...

No twittering every five seconds. Nothing is that profound. No twittering headlines word for word. We can read them for ourselves.

No fair getting an agent with only 140 characters. Your writing has to totally rock to be able to do that. Your good news had me questioning my twitter abilities for a month.

PS I am addicting to the !!!! Yes. I am.

WendyCinNYC said...

Wise words from the Twitter Queen.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Judith, No doubt. Sometimes I tweet in sprees, but I try to be mindful that not everyone wants to see my blue avatar pic 50 times in a row. [Damn!]

My 140 characters totally rocked. Maybe I should teach a class? [KIDDING!]

Debra L. Schubert said...

Wendy, #amblushing ;-)

Anne Tyler Lord said...


I like your Twetiquette, and agree with you - it makes the whole experience so much more enriching.

I love Twitter and also had absolutely no intention of doing it, it "snuck-up" on me and now I am so thankful to connect with great writers like you. I think the writers on Twitter are the best for sharing, connecting and goofing around for fun!

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Oh, and BTW, your new site look is divine!

Rosalind Adam said...

Thanks for your Twetiquette rules. I love being able to dip in and out of Twitter and enjoy the banter with my followers. I agree about language. I'm not a prude and am happy to read books with colourful language but on Twitter if I see the f word I unfollow instantly. I also get irritated by people who send out a series of about links, news announcements one after the other.

Christina Lee said...

Good stuff, you!!

My favorite: Use DM's for personal conversations you are sure other people want to have. Period!Hate when people use it differently!

Oh and I agree with jd--no fair getting agent in 140 characters ;-) Very cool story, though!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Anne, I also love the writing community on Twitter. It really is amazing. And, so glad you like the new "do!"

Debra L. Schubert said...

Rosalind, RE: Language - I'm amazed when people use bad language frequently - it's such a turn-off. And, I love links that are interesting and creative. The key, as in most cases, is all things in moderation.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Christina, Not sure how anyone ever got the idea to use DM's to "thank you" for following them on Twitter. To quote one of my favorite SNL skits, "Bad Idea Jeans." ;-)

Anonymous said...

You always have the best posts. Seriously. (Note, I am not using '!!!' I am trying to use them sparingly.)

Way to go, Ms. Schubert.

B. Miller said...

Nice post!! I followed Elizabeth Craig's link here from Twitter, and now you have a new follower on your blog and twitter feed! Thanks!

Morgan Ives said...

Thanks for a great post! There's something I've been wondering, and I'd love to hear thoughts: what (if any) hashtag is it okay to use when posting your blog posts? I hate to see a long list of hastags after a post, but at the same time, I'd like the writing community to know that I updated.

Michaele Stoughton said...

Thanks for your advice Debra. The fact that Twitter helped you get your agent is always in the back of my mind when I say something on Twitter. I try not to sound like an idiot. [which is probably why I don't twitter often] Heeheehee.

Anyway, I would like to share my biggest turn-off. I hope not to offend anyone, but as a true Theophobic, I don't like religious quotes and passages being tweeted for no reason. I understand if it is relevant to a holiday, or something, but other than that, I don't like to see it. I'm sorry.

I know religion can be taboo, so I have a hard time revealing this. I sometimes wish people could understand why. I've been trying to get up the courage to do a blog post about my experience. What do you think, is it a bad idea?

Marisa Birns said...

One of the things I always do is to reply to someone whose @ me a comment or question. Don't want them to think I didn't want to take the little bit of time it takes to answer.

Great post!

Debra L. Schubert said...

nkrell, Thank you, my dear - much appreciated!

Debra L. Schubert said...

B, Thanks for the follows! And, I love Elizabeth. She's brilliant and generous, a wonderful combination. I'll have to thank her for sending you my way. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Morgan, I have no idea! I don't use hashtags when tweeting my blog posts. I just post the new link w/maybe a little tickler. I love hashtags, though, and have a great time making up my own. #amblushing #downwithsarah #zeppelinrules #etc!

Laura Marcella said...

Excellent points! Twitter should buy this article and post it on their homepage.

I like exclamation points, though!!! I notice I exclaim about everything on Twitter but I can't seem to help it!!! Periods are just boring!!!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Michelle, I'm totally with you. I'm pretty much anti-anything-religious on Twitter. I do, however, like general spiritual tweets that don't mention God and apply to everyone - uplifting quotes, I guess you'd say. It's also fine to wish people a Happy Easter or Happy Passover.

As far as blogging about it, sure, why not? It's your blog. Just be careful not to offend any particular faith, or don't be careful, but know you may lose followers. ("Followers" - kind of funny in the context!)

Personally, I'd love to hear about your experience. That's part of what makes us each so interesting - our experiences and our feelings towards them.

There's my 2 cents, for what it's worth. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Marisa, Great point! I try to do that as well. The last thing I want is anyone thinking I think I'm "too good" to answer back. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Laura, Love your idea! I'd sell it to 'em cheap, though they'd have to work out the details for foreign and film rights w/my agent. *grin*

So glad you like the post, and I'm with you on the exclamation points! I use them a lot, too, though I know it bothers some people. Oh, well, too bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Matt said...

I can agree with most of what you say here, but you should maybe call this "Twetiquette for Writers" since several of your points seem to be targeted at writers specifically (like word counts and agents) rather than Twitter users in general.

Michaele Stoughton said...

Thank you so much Debra! I really respect your thoughts on the subject.
I think I will post about my horrifying experience. It may be therapeutic, also explain that it is a true fear, not a choice I made.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Matt, Yup - that's why I stated, "For the purpose of this post, I'll limit my discussion to the writing community, since that's the one I'm most familiar with." I thought that clarified things. If not, sorry.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Michaele, This is America. You should be able to write what you want, especially on your own blog. Go for it! ;-)

(Sorry I spelled your name wrong on the last comment. #mybad!!!!!!!!!)

Carolin Seidenkranz said...

Thanks for the great post. You summarise what matters well and I agree with all of the points, especially the whiner part. While everyone DOES have their bad days, and Twitter is a great support system, talking about all that goes wrong in your life 24/7 puts such a negative light on you. It seems like you're only there for people's sympathy. I have to be honest and say that I do unfollow these people after a while of watching their streams, simply because they pull ME down.

That said, Twitter is my favourite social network now. It's so easy and amazing to connect with people and it's also information central for me. I follow a lot of people with interesting news or links and they keep me up to date - especially when it comes to the publishing business. So yay for Twitter. *cheers*

Laura Eno said...

You forgot one...don't talk about chocolate unless you're willing to share.

Love your post. If only everyone complied!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Carolin, I'm so with you. We need to lift each other up, not bring each other down. I also agree that Twitter is the best! News, information, laughs, support, it's all there every day. It's like one, giant, artistic community at the ready. #twitterrocks

Debra L. Schubert said...

Laura, Thanks for the reminder. PSA: Do NOT mention chocolate unless you can instantly transport it to all the chocoholics on Twitter - RUDE! That rule goes without saying. ;-)

Jemi Fraser said...

Great tips, Debra!

I'd only add about the hashtags. #yalitchat, #kidlitchat & #writechat are 3 of my faves although I can't always make them because real life keeps getting in the way!!

Jody Hedlund said...

Your post ROCKS!!! I especially like this: there are many reasons people fly the bird [not to be confused with "give the bird"]. You crack me up! :-)

But seriously, you summed up the do's and don'ts really well!

Tawna Fenske said...

Excellent Twitter tips! As a relative newbie (joined at my agent's urging 2 months ago) I'm always eager to learn more about the dos and don'ts!

Thanks for this post!


Anonymous said...

Nicely stated :) Thanks for posting this!!!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jemi, Great point - the hashtags are important and fun. Use them, people!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jody, You inspired this post, so thank you! [And, I promise I'll never flip you the bird.;-)]

Debra L. Schubert said...

Tawna, Your agent is brilliant and hilarious, like you. So glad you joined the Twitter community - don't know how we survived without you! And looking forward to dinner next month!!! (Note the extra exclamation points!!!!!!!!!)

Debra L. Schubert said...

RSL, You're so very welcome, and thanks so much for stopping by. ;-)

Julie said...

I love this post, and it's very educational. As you know, I've tried Twitter, but I never know what to say, so I'm mostly silent. It certainly is good to know what not to say... or what will cause the masses to turn on me. :)

Myra said...

Love it. Especially the "don't diss anyone on Twitter." Remind me to tell you about the time I told someone on Twitter to suck it because I thought they were a spammer.

Except she was a grandmother from Texas.

Who reviews YA.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Julie, One of these days you'll take over the Twitosphere and folks will be amazed by your awesome wit and generosity. Glad you liked the post, even though you haven't [yet] embraced the awesomeness that is Twitter. ;-)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Myra, Hilarious story. Major "oopsie!" [There are laws against abusing the elderly. Just sayin']

janflora said...

This is a very good guide, and I will definitely share. I would add a note about ppl who retweet every song they are listening to, especially through other apps like There is a setting that prevents instant tweeting. Sharing some music is good, especially good tunes to write to or new music, but a barrage of repetitive tweets is not.
I am sooo glad you mentioned the ppl who auto-DM with promos. That seems like spam to me. If I want to check out your blog/site/service, I will!
Congrats on your agent connection, you have given me a glimmer of hope ;) Good luck in future.
Now following you too!

Voidwalker said...

That's a lot to think about hehe. Probably why I don't twitter. So far my social networking remains in blogger and facebook. After those two, I'm usually too drained for any new social sites.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Jan, So glad you found me! Yes, I agree. I'm a musician and I can't understand why someone would tweet the music they're listening to. It's fine to mention it from time to time, but really - not necessary. Thanks for the comment!

Debra L. Schubert said...

VW, You'd love Twitter, but I know what you mean - we all have to decide our limits on social networking. I'm not on FB, so Twitter and my blog are my virtual networking tools. Love them both deeply. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hi! Saw you over at "Something She Wrote," and loved this post except that I broke the cardinal rule of "No Whining," not on Twitter, but on my blog just now.

I've been resistant to tweeting but hey, maybe this weekend I'll have one of my teenagers teach me how to do it!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Michaele, Join the Twitter party - you'll be glad you did! It's super easy and tons of fun. And, I'm so glad you found me! I look forward to getting to know you. ;-)

MOLLYC said...

I enjoyed this post. I have gotten some great buzz for my writing on twitter. I am tired of all the quotes. I am amazed at how RT's help get blog followers. I have had a lot of great laughs there. But twitter is addictive, and I am developing a large derriere as a result.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Molly, Hah! Wish I could blame my large back end on Twitter. So glad you enjoyed the post and glad we're following each other now. I love a gal with a great sense of humor!

Mark H. said...

"Of course, this doesn't include truly evil people like the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sarah Palin. They deserve all the grief they get. "

"They deserve all the grief they get." Huh? Doesn't this qualify a hate speech?

I, like you, despise the politics of Limbaugh, Coulter and Palin. However, to associate them with the KKK and Neo-Nazis profoundly displays your colossal ignorance of these 3 persons and the agendas of these 2 evil groups. You are clearly either a complete fool or a silly, uninformed, childish, hateful individual.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Mark, Thanks for the laugh. I appreciate your views, but that is how I see them. They are dangerous and their thinking is dangerous. That's my opinion and this is my blog. Sorry if you disagree, but that's what makes this country great - the fact that we can disagree on matters of politics, religion, etc.

"You are clearly either a complete fool or a silly, uninformed, childish, hateful individual." Right back atcha, babe!

Mark H said...

Well "babe," these are obviously your opinions and, of course, your are entitled to them and to share them. However, presuming to present them in the form of advise as to proper conduct lays you open to a legitimate scolding when your conduct contradicts your own advise. The fact that this is your blog makes scant difference. Moreover, this particular smug advice/conduct is more than just contrary to the overall spirit of the (otherwise useful) post. It also displays an astonishing lack of sensitivity to -- and awareness of -- those African Americans and/or Jews who have experienced genuine persecution, dread and violence at the hands of the KKK or Neo-Nazis... you minimize their unambiguous evilness by making them out to be the moral equivalent of Limbaugh, Coulter and Palin. These three may well try to marginalize some people and groups by way of nasty, ill-informed speech, but, to the best of my knowledge, not one of them has ever burned a cross in anyone's front yard or lynched anyone's grandfather for talking to white woman.

Debra L. Schubert said...

Mark, I appreciate your comments. I was raised Jewish, so I don't say these things lightly. I truly believe it's rhetoric like Ann Coulter's that leads to extreme and dangerous bigotry. I didn't make that comment lightly. I meant it.

Again, I appreciate your thoughts. Our right to speak our minds is what makes America great and something we must never take for granted. Speaking out against the hateful rhetoric of people like Ann Coulter is necessary in order to insure another black spot on history - like the Holocaust - never happens again.

sanjeet said...

I like your Twetiquette, and agree with you - it makes the whole experience so much more enriching.
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