Rewriting vs. retweeting

I asked a dozen writers, journalists, social media pros, and Wikipedia editors – including Stephen King – what time-honored reporting, writing, and editing skills they bring to digital media.

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Jeff Elder photo

Two quotation marks “walk into” a bar.

Good grammar is not an academic exercise. To the contrary it pays off. (To the agreeable it also pays off. See what I did there?) A 2013 analysis of 100 LinkedIn profiles by the firm Grammarly, found that:

Stephen King gives us his thoughts

I asked experts their thoughts for this piece — interviewing is a reporting skill I see too rarely on social media, where the writer’s opinion often supplants others’ actual expertise. I started with legendary author Stephen King, who to my surprise and delight provided these thoughts on the subject:

“Tweeting requires the most disciplined writing of all, because it demands compression. A good tweet is gold.”

– Stephen King, kindly commenting for this piece

Other skills in the craft of writing that are remiss on social media

I asked friends on Facebook and members of the group Social Journalism what traditional media skills should be preserved on social media. Here are some of the good habits they urged.

“Just because social opens the window to the world, shouting out of it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing it right.” — Matt Wadley

Provide contextual value. “On Twitter, rather than just basic retweeting, adding a one-line summary, capsule, insight, or quotable quote (as seen in a traditional deck or subhead) provides more to your audience.” – Andrew Lih, Wikipedia and Wikidata instructor at Wikimedia District of Columbia

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By Pavel.satrapa (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Every time you make a typo, the errorists win.

Roy Peter Clark, Poynter Institute scholar and author

Can trained and disciplined writers and editors practice their craft on Twitter? They must, says my friend Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute journalism think tank, author of “Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.” He told me writers must be able to bring their skills into different worlds. “The key virtue for writers in these fast times is versatility. I need someone who can write short or long, fast or slow, someone who can gather reports or craft stories. I need someone able to write in various genres, for various audiences, on a variety of media platforms. Someone who can gather a Twitter following, and who aspires to write books.”

Written by

Former WSJ reporter and syndicated columnist working in the blogosphere. Once sold books to Johnny Cash. My Medium post about that was praised by Paris Review.

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