13 January 2010

Tweet with fewer characters and more style

This is quick, simple, and (most importantly) won’t compromise your personal integrity, i.e., I’m not gonna suggest you start writing like this: “xQs me mst go, cu s%n”

You may notice if you use a word editor that it will often convert regular characters, that you have typed, into special characters (utf-8). Specifically, if you type “...”, it will get converted into an actual ellipses “…”. Or if you put quotes around something "like this", they may get changed to curly quotes “like this”. Furthermore, if you type two dashes -- they can get warped into a mysterious em-dash (—).

Turns out that you can easily type these characters on a Mac by holding the option key and hitting another character. On Windows it’s a bit harder to do (and remember), but you can type a combination of alt and a sequence of numbers on your keypad. Specifically:

ellipsesoption + ;alt + 0133
em-dashoption + _alt + 0151
en-dashoption + -alt + 0150
curly left double quoteoption + [alt + 0147
curly right double quoteoption + {alt + 0148
curly reversed quoteoption + ]?
curly quoteoption + }alt + 0146

These special characters can be used in text editors or webpages*, and they’ll appear fine in browsers (even internet explorer 6). So next time you’re on Twitter and want to add an em-dash and an ellipses to a 138 character message—or you’re writing a tweet of any length—try out this trick, it may brighten the day of a typographer. Just don’t ask me about the difference between an em-dash and an en-dash.

*Note: the webpage must have utf8 encoding instead of iso-8859-1, which isn’t an issue on twitter and not an issue on most sites. If your own site is having trouble showing these characters, you may have something like this in your html: `<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1" />`, join the future and change "iso-8859-1" to "utf-8"

Comments (1)

1. Daisylover2000 wrote:

“xQs me mst go, cu s%n” <-- that's so funny! Do people really do that? I don't use twitter.

Posted on 17 February 2010 at 11:02 AM  |  permalink

Peter Coles

Peter Coles

is a software engineer who lives in NYC, works at Ringly, and blogs here.
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