How a Twitter edit button could work

280 characters is nice, but the people want to be able to edit their typos

Twitter got clunkier after it announced it was expanding its character limit to 280 earlier this month. Not only have tweets become the length of an email, but heaven help you if you’re trying to wade through a thread.

I don’t think it’s something an overwhelming number of people were asking for, and I suggested it came at the expense of a popular ask: the edit button.

(I must confess, it has been nice to have the cushion of a few extra characters, but I think 280 is too many.)

I heard from many people who understandably theorized an edit button could be abused, allowing people to change the context of a tweet. One example was that a viral tweet of a bunny could be edited to be a swastika. I admit there is potential for abuse.

But I think most people just want to be able to edit a typo. For those of us who manage brand accounts, having the ability to fix a typo — a misspelled or missing word, an incorrect link, etc. — would be a godsend. News organizations, especially, don’t want to get in the habit of deleting tweets because of an error. Perhaps verified users or brands get priority in testing this.

Aditi Sharma replied to me with a valid point: “edit button will make it worse … we will keep changing our tweet and different people will read different message from same tweet.”

And I do sympathize with Michael VanElzakker, who replied, “Why can’t people just proofread their tweet before hitting the button? It takes less than 3 seconds.”

That’s true. And the excuses for typo aren’t great. But they happen for many reasons. Facebook has given users the ability to edit posts, and provides the option to see the edit history, which I think is a good starting place for how Twitter could handle such an option.

Here’s how it might work:

1) In a tweet’s drop-down menu, give users the option to edit a post.

2) When they click that, they must choose a reason why. Typo, missing word, bad link, etc.

3) If a user is changing the content of a tweet, they are given a limited number of characters to do so, say 20. That should be enough to add a word or fix a typo, but not enough to warp the content of the tweet. A link could be swapped out.

4) A log of the edit is sent to Twitter, and users are able to see the edit history, with the changes highlighted. Wikipedia has a good model for this.

5) Typo-prone Twitter users breathe a sigh of relief.

Other Twitter users on the discussion suggested a limited timeframe to edit tweets (3–7 minutes) or wiping out RTs and replies as punishment.

Look, this isn’t a comprehensive solution or the end of the discussion, but I hope that Twitter will consider a solution like this.