New York Times bans use of the word “Tweet”

Thu, Jun 10, 2010


The New York Times, largely regarded as the “newspaper of record” here in the United States, is putting the clamp down on the use of the word “tweet” in news articles. Phil Corbett, who assumed the role as the Times’ standards editor back in 2009, sent out a memo to employees yesterday explaining why the word “tweet” simply isn’t up to snuff with the papers’ standard for journalism.

Below is the memo in question. Feel free to read it, but just don’t tweet it.

How About “Chirp”?

Some social-media fans may disagree, but outside of ornithological contexts, “tweet” has not yet achieved the status of standard English. And standard English is what we should use in news articles.

Except for special effect, we try to avoid colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon. And “tweet” — as a noun or a verb, referring to messages on Twitter — is all three. Yet it has appeared 18 times in articles in the past month, in a range of sections.

Of course, new technology terms sprout and spread faster than ever. And we don’t want to seem paleolithic. But we favor established usage and ordinary words over the latest jargon or buzzwords.

One test is to ask yourself whether people outside of a target group regularly employ the terms in question. Many people use Twitter, but many don’t; my guess is that few in the latter group routinely refer to “tweets” or “tweeting.” Someday, “tweet” may be as common as “e-mail.” Or another service may elbow Twitter aside next year, and “tweet” may fade into oblivion. (Of course, it doesn’t help that the word itself seems so inherently silly.)

“Tweet” may be acceptable occasionally for special effect. But let’s look for deft, English alternatives: use Twitter, post to or on Twitter, write on Twitter, a Twitter message, a Twitter update. Or, once you’ve established that Twitter is the medium, simply use “say” or “write.”

It’s a fair point. The Times ain’t a slang rag, ya know?

via The Awl



Comments are closed.

eXTReMe Tracker