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RT, MT, HT, via: The importance of giving credit on Twitter

Author’s note: Be sure to read my follow-up post to this topic from August 2011.


Moreso than other social media, Twitter embraces an ethic of sharing credit.

In fact, the more you recognize the work of others, the more you are engaging with the Twitterverse.

It began with the simple RT, or retweet. If you liked what someone wrote or posted, you’d copy the tweet in its entirety, add RT along with his or her @name at the beginning, and post to your followers.

The retweet became so popular that Twitter eventually incorporated a built-in automatic retweet function. Still, many prefer the “manual” RT because it allows you to provide some additional commentary about the tweet.

The problem with the manual method is it truncates the original tweet if the message is already 140 characters long. As a result, some users attempt to trim words to make the tweet fit.

That editing outrages some users, especially when the trimming changes the meaning of the original tweet. Many users — including me — see a retweet akin to a quote in journalism: Anything after “RT” should be exactly what was originally tweeted.

If it’s edited for length, MT (modified tweet) is used by some users (thanks to @mathewi, @ljthornton and @JeremyLittau for confirming my interpretation).

The issue with MT: It has multiple meanings online. Indeed, in the world of instant messaging, it means “mistell” or “mistyped.” In online gaming, it can mean “main tank,” or the unit designed to draw the most fire.

If you’ve got to modify a tweet, I prefer creating an entirely new tweet to explain why I found a link valuable and then credit using via:

In the above case, I discovered the story through @mashable in my stream, but the tweet about the link is my own. Several users I follow prefer this method because it gives you an opportunity to say why you found the link interesting.

I’ve seen HT (hat tip or heard through) used in a fashion similar to via. This form acknowledges where you first heard about the item or idea. Like MT, however, HT isn’t widely embraced, and some users will scratch their heads with confusion.

To be heard, you must be understood. Too much code, and you alienate some of your audience.

Until MT and HT become more widespread, I’d stick with RT and via.

There are 9 comments .

Paul Clarke

The unwritten part of this story is that since the introduction of the “official” Twitter retweet function (where the tweet appears intact, with the RTers name being appended merely as metadata) a choice exists:
– to do it the official way (and just be another, possibly unnoticed retweeter)
– to find some sort of manual intervention, not just to add commentary, but to preserve kudos as the finder of a great piece of content. The payoff being that subsequent retweets, whether manual or official, will bear your name, thus getting you an audience. If that’s your gig. Which it is for a lot of people on Twitter 😉

Some Guy —

I thought HT meant “Hash Tag.”

jgroves —

Hashtags are designated with a #. They offer a way for people to connect a conversation to an event, group, or topic. So I might include a hashtag of #twittertips in a tweet linking to this post.

Some Guy —

I was #joking.

jgroves —


jriggins —

Letterman has been tweeting live during his show. Here’s a sample Tweet from yesterday:

@#HashTag. JOB OPENING! Late night talk show cue card boy.

Carrie Brown-Smith (@Brizzyc)

Good point, Groves. I guess I use MT instead of via when my modifications have been pretty minor, whereas I use via when I’ve modified the original substantially. I feel like MT is saying – this is very close to a direct quote but I may have pulled out a word or a space or something to make it fit the 140 characters. But is is tricky.

jgroves —

That’s the way I use it now, too. I revisited this topic a few months after I wrote this post: http://socialmediacertificate.net/2011/08/mt-on-twitter-the-ever-evolving-social-medium/

Nikhil Kulkarni

You forgot OH – Overheard

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