Line Feeds in Twitter Posts

Most people probably don’t care about inserting line feeds (“carriage returns,” for you older folks) into a Twitter post. I mean, the whole post is limited to 140 characters. Why would anyone need a line break?

Well, for poets, line breaks can mean a great deal. And there’s quite a healthy #haiku and #micropoetry crowd on Twitter. Some use “/” to indicate a line break; some use “::”; and I’ve even seen some use “;”.

(For you American punctuation purists, I realize that period should go inside the quotation marks, but think how confusing that would be in this case.)

Wouldn’t it be great if we could make a haiku or lune look like a haiku or lune? Well, I’ve done some Web searching and experimenting, and here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

  1. In the Twitter interface itself, SHIFT+ENTER (or, on a Mac, SHIFT+RETURN) creates a line break in the text-entry box, as it does pretty much anyplace else on the Web.
  2. This line break won’t display on Twitter (or Facebook).
  3. It does display if you’re viewing Twitter posts in SEESMIC.
  4. However, SHIFT+ENTER won’t cause a line break if you’re posting from SEESMIC.

Conclusion: There’s apparently no way to guarantee display of line breaks in your Twitter poems, so you’re best keeping “/” or something as a signifier.

As for line break display in SEESMIC, it’s pretty cool, but whether it’s worth the effort of having to enter poems via Twitter.com, you’ll have to be the judge.

All things considered, I’m planning to take this as a challenge to write these poems as a single sentence, carefully crafting phrases and clauses to require normal punctuation where the line would traditionally break. That constraint will make the writing more difficult, but “nuns fret not ,” as Wordsworth says.

—Les

2 Comments

  1. Gah, I thought this post would lead me to an answer to how the enter line breaks in twitter/FB. Shift-Enter is an interesting assist, perhaps some other clients acknowledge it (I’ve never heard of SEESMIC).
    It’s not just poets (although I’m @jazmatician, a pretty active haikuo) — Dialogue loses a lot of punch and clarity when it’s not given proper spacing. Not to mention using a single LF character is much more efficient than two “” characters.

    Ah anyway, I’m thinking of posting a bounty on the intertubes for a method to insert line breaks into Twitter/FB posts.

    DM me if you learn of something.

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