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The @McCallSmith mini-essay on Twitter

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I think novelist Alexander McCall Smith has invented a mini-essay form suitable for Twitter, and he has been publishing these little essays for some time. He launches a topic over a course of 3-6 tweets, all posted in the space of perhaps a half hour. Presumably he’s been gathering thoughts for awhile in preparation, since the tweets tend to show the topic from a variety of perspectives, as a good personal essay will often do. And a reader is tempted to see the tweets as having been arranged in a thoughtful order, making a progression, leading from an announcement of topic through some examples toward some kind of closure or conclusion. Here is an example, which should be read, in Twitter fashion, from the bottom up:

A question about tweet style

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Is this a strong tweet?

@maddow: Brilliant visualization of a hard-to-grasp, important thing: http://is.gd/hX6sQd

Well, as a reader I have no idea what the link offers, and I resist that in a blog posting or a tweet. But if this next tweet’s link is correct…

The promise you make and keep: a brief theory of web publishing. http://is.gd/iiTBa9

…then a writer who makes a strong promise to an audience and delivers on that promise over time may not need to say more than @maddow has said here because readers know what they can expect from a trusted writer:

@maddow: Brilliant visualization of a hard-to-grasp, important thing: http://is.gd/hX6sQd

But a writer who is still shaping an identity or purpose or project will not have established a clear promise that an audience has heard and accepted, and for that audience a tweet like @maddow’s would probably be too skimpy, too much of a tease.

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