How to write a Twitter essay

An illustrated guide

Thanks almost entirely to Heer Jeet, the “Twitter Essay” has become a popular form of storytelling. Basically, it’s for when you have some thoughts that go beyond the 140 character limit of a single tweet, but you don’t want to write everything up in your notes app and then post a screenshot you’re Adele or something.

screenshorts: an alternative to the twitter essay

The Twitter essay, in it’s proper form, is a series of Tweets that are connected to each other so you can see one out in the wild, click on it, and be taken to the full story, like so:

a classic Jeet Heer Twitter essay on Twitter essays

In this example, I’ve provided the link to the third in a series of Tweets making up a Twitter essay. You’ll notice that it doesn’t appear on its own, though- all the rest are above and below it. This is nearly a year old, and it’s still easy to find it in full context.

Contrast this with Alberta MP Michelle Rempel’s infamous series of Tweets on the nature of young women in leadership. If I link to a random tweet from that series, that’s all you get: this one tweet, alone in the wilderness.

This makes no sense on its own. In this case, the Tweets were noteworthy enough that media outlets took it upon themselves to put them in order, but most of the time, that’s not going to happen. So instead we get random numbered or unnumbered tweets that- unless you catch them as they are coming out — become totally disconnected from their larger narrative.

Among the reasons you’ll want to do this:

  • it makes your thoughts more readable for those who come to them after the fact
  • other people can retweet one or two key points, and then people who are interested can click through for the larger context, even if they don’t follow you
  • if you use twitter as a note-taking tool to organize thoughts, it will make it easier for you to come back to those thoughts later to expand or rework them
  • it’s just plain nicer

Fortunately, it’s *super easy* to make Twitter essays that work. Here’s what you do (I’m showing screenshots from the Twitter web client, but this works in Tweetdeck, the apps, basically everywhere):

Step one:

Write your initial tweet

Step two:

Hit “reply” to that tweet

Step three:

remove your username, write your message, and hit send

Step four:

repeat, this time by replying to your second tweet. Now all your tweets will be strung together, like so.

Trust me, your followers will thank you.