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Will Twitter’s 280 characters cause ‘tweeter’s block’?

Goodbye short and sweet tweets, hello big, fat, unedited windbaggery

Tweeting been made easier, says Twitter. Is that wise? Photograph: Thomas White/Reuters

Twitter’s doubled character limit is undoubtedly good news – for Germans. Anybody who writes in languages that make even the most verbose English seem like text-speak will benefit from the abolition of 140-character tyranny. But will anyone else?

According to Twitter, yes. In a blog post titled “Tweeting Made Easier”, product manager Aliza Rosen revealed that 9 per cent of tweets in English used to hit the old limit. This reflected “the challenge of fitting a thought into a tweet” and often resulted in “lots of time spent editing and even at times abandoning tweets before sending”.

The desire to treat 140 as a target rather than a limit could have been a factor here, but Twitter does not acknowledge this. What it says instead is that during the 280-character trial phase, only 1 per cent of tweets ran up against the doubled limit. Twitter believes those users spent less time editing tweets before sending, and that this was a good thing. It also says the 280-character people received higher engagement and spent more time on Twitter. More was more.

Perfect excuse

Surely not for everyone. The quotation “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time” (attributed to French philosopher Blaise Pascal) implies that brevity is hard work. But brevity was Twitter’s selling point. The platform’s limitations were the perfect excuse for the absence of nuance. If a tweet was found wanting, then the challenge of “fitting a thought” into one was a good defence. Now this is gone, the pressure is on: Welcome to “tweeter’s block”.

Windbags, meanwhile, have the chance to extend their windbaggery all over our mobile screens with their fat, unedited tweets. If you do catch one of these souls stuffing overlong tweets with misguided pretensions, a single-word reply will puncture their efforts: “Parklife!” It’s a rejoinder that not everyone will understand. Alas, it would take too long to explain.