One of the side effects of Twitter’s 140-character limitation is that users are coming up with their own microsyntax and abbreviated Twitter grammar to make their Tweets more expressive. If your are merely retweeting someone else’s tweet, for example, you acknowledge that by placing a “RT” at the beginning of your micro-message. If you are replying publicly to another user or just referring to them, you indicate that with an “@username.” You can even add hashtags to a tweet so that it shows up in searches for specific topics (please use “#twittergrammar” if you are going to RT this post).
New conventions pop up every day. To make sense of them, and develop new ones, Stowe Boyd is launching Microsyntax.org tomorrow. In a debut blog post, he insists that it is not a “standards body,” but that is effectively what it might become. And we need one, because Twitter isn’t setting any standards. You can follow @microsyntax to keep on top of the latest Twitter lingo.
Microsyntax is not just about coming up with commonly used abbreviations. It is also the way that structure can be added to the mess that is Twitter today. Hashtags, for instance, lets you find all tweets about a particular subject or event. We probably need more microtags for different purposes.
The problem with the microsyntax approach, however, is that it appeals mostly to the command-line crowd instead of to the average user. Nevertheless, if a microconvention becomes popular enough, then Twitter itself can adopt it, as it has with the @replies (although it has messed that up by mixing in retweets that simply mention your name and aren’t truly replies, but I digress). What’s your favorite microslang and what do we need to add to the microlexicon?