For those people new to the Twitterverse watching a stream of messages can be confusing. There are a bunch of symbols Twitterers use to shorten, group or mention people or ideas. Since it’s limited to 140 characters, people have gotten creative on how to use the space.

Besides just shrinking some words (‘People’ becomes ‘Ppl’), symbols are used as well. Here are some of the most common.

@ – The ‘at’ symbol.
Commonly seen in email addresses, the @ is used by the Twitter system to signify someone’s handle or Twitter name. Its commonly called a ‘mention’ on Twitter. So when typing in a Twitter app, if you put ‘@aaron_robb‘, that automatically links to the username and allows that person to see that they were mentioned in the message. It also allows people to click on the name and find more info on that person.

# – The pound symbol, or on Twitter called a ‘Hashtag’. This is used to group messages together so that someone can follow the hashtag and see all conversations involving it. It was used so that you don’t have to watch a simple word that could be used in anyone’s messages. The # seperates the normally used word from a tag that people want to follow. Hashtags can be anything you want, from obscure: #IDoNotWantWorms to simple that groups use: #UsGuys, #Marketing, #SocialMedia, etc. You can search these terms with the hashtag to follow chats or specific topics.

RT – The short version of ‘ReTweet’. This signifies when someone reposts a message that another person first Tweeted. It shows that the poster isn’t the original one, and it allows others to see who the original poster was. For example:

“I’ll design it:) RT @realchaseadams there a tool 4 “Notify me when I hit my 9,995th tweet (or any num) who wants to make it? :)”

Its used out of respect too, to show that you appreciate what the original poster had said. It allows the original idea to spread as well to your own followers.

§ – The sarcasm symbol. This is one of the newest symbols used on Twitter. Since 140 characters sometimes doesn’t allow for you to insert the whole word ‘sarcasm’, and because some people can’t read into the message and see it as sarcastic, this symbol was used to show this. It can be made by using the buttons ‘ALT+6’ on a Mac, or ‘ALT+0,1,6,7’ on a PC. It can be used at the beginning or end of a Tweet, or both to really show sarcasm. This symbol was created out of a need found by the #usguys group on Twitter. Expressing feeling in 140 characters is hard, so a symbol was put in its place. Just another example of Twitter users adapting the service to their needs.

As more people start using Twitter, more symbols will be used. Its a new language, going beyond slang used by the original adopters. Some obvious symbols are used as well, like the : ) for smile face, : ( frown, $#*! for the common swearing, etc.

If you know of more symbols used in Twitter, besides the basic shortening of words, let me know!

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