Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 16, 2012

A shining example of efficient communication in 38 characters or less

This sentence contains 38 characters. Few people would know this; even less could care. Except, of course, for those who tweet.

Tweeting, a method of communicating with friends, family and strangers in concise, succinct phrases, is short, simple and to the point — 140 characters or less. For those who don’t tweet, this method of conversation may seem strange. Why talk with others in such a condensed manner? What is the lure of short, to-the-point sentences? As a new fan of Twitter, I can attest that brevity has its place.

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There are days when I have downtime, but they are rare. On these occasions I have time to spend a few minutes chatting with employees about their lives away from the office. I have time to kick back in the desk chair and reminiscent with former newspaper employees and residents of the community about the region’s glory days.

But, regrettably, those days are few and far between. Usually my days are booked from sun up to sun down with a plethora of newsroom duties. Who has time for an adjective-laced conversation when there are stories to tell, updates to post to the website and email blasts waiting to be sent?

The newspaper business is hectic. And maybe that’s why so many of us are drawn to Twitter. It’s a shining example of efficient communication. It’s stream-of-consciousness hyped up on chocolate-covered espresso beans and laced with a mighty dose of bluntness and honesty. When Twitter first appeared on the social networking scene, I shunned it. “Who cares about the mundane aspects of an individual’s day-to-day life?” I asked. Who cares about “Arrgh! Finals!” or “Yum! Blueberry muffins for breakfast!”

Lately I’ve realized I do care. Twitter is communication in simple language with a high-tech forum. And this forum leaves no room for rambling small talk, ranting or way-too-flowery prose. Twitter is to-the-point conversation. As a busy editor, I like that.

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Recently I’ve realized my life can be translated through Twitter. Ups and downs, good moments and bad — I now muse and ponder in short, succinct blurbs. So what is my week as a tweet? Some of the following made it to Twitter, while others did not:

• In the office for a few hours before heading to Lexington, Ky., for digital training. Hope to hear some good ideas.

• How much to pack for an overnight stay? More importantly, which heels to take?

• Love that the speed limit on the turnpike is 70. Cup of hot coffee, iPod blaring. Travel is good.

• How much construction can they do on the turnpike in a given day?! Seriously?!

• Bypassing Charleston on the ’pike. Finally!

• Traffic congestion around Huntington on 64 West. Who taught these people how to drive!

• Note to driver of white Toyota: The fast lane is not for those going 63 mph!

• Is scrolling on a smartphone illegal under the state’s new texting ban?

• Where is gas cheaper: West Virginia or Kentucky? Should have checked before hitting the road.

• Forced to use a gas station restroom. Feel an overwhelming need to soak in hand sanitizer.

• 79-ish mph. That’s the golden speed in Kentucky!

• Finally seeing signs for Lexington. So tired.

• Why am I unnerved by valets who rush over to open the door? I’ve read too many carjacking stories.

• Nice room. The number of big, fluffy pillows on a hotel bed must directly correlate to the cost of the room.

• Fruit and muffins. Why is this always served at a seminar breakfast?

• Telegraph website shown several times during “great ideas” segment. We rock!

• Contest at training to illustrate difference in Web content and the importance of Facebook to draw traffic. (Which relates to next tweet.)

• Hooters, not just for men anymore (with related link to story on our site).

• What are the chances on the day I have corporate digital training, Internet goes down at the paper? (Translation: This contest is lost.)

• Training wraps. Expect a few tweaks to our website in the coming weeks.

• On the road back to Bluefield. The drawback to a large Starbucks coffee? More gas station restrooms.

• Once again, traffic around Huntington is horrible! Stay outta the fast lane!

• Labs greet me in the driveway with wagging tails. It’s good to be home!

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New forms of communication are changing our society. If it’s for better or worse has yet to be seen, but we must acknowledge that the written word is evolving.

As an editor, I will always cringe at a text message asking, “What r u doing?” Yet I also realize the concept behind texting and tweeting — blurbs about life — is not new. Think about Shakespeare: “This above all; to thine own self be true” and “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” The bard was a master of tweet-worthy thoughts.

What would Shakespeare write today? One website provides possible tweets such as, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Nah” and “To those that unfollowed after the @CMarlowe tweet, whatevs, I’m just saying what everyone else is thinking.”

As technology moves forward, our language — written and spoken — will continue to change. When it does, we should continue to look back to the greats like Shakespeare for courage in this succinct new world: “When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain.”

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.

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