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MT on Twitter: The ever-evolving social medium

Twitter evolves more quickly than other social media because of its users.

Rather than relying on programmers to tweak features, users create their own languages, cultures, and uses for the malleable medium.

Witness the advent of MT to signify a retweet that has been slightly modified.

I first noticed the abbreviation earlier this year, and at the time, I hadn’t quite bought into its usage, partly because it seemed unclear and confusing to many users. Initially, it seemed to duplicate the function of via.

As I see it appear more often, though, it does seem to have a distinctive usage of value.

Via indicates a completely new tweet about information discovered through another user. MT is a modified tweet that has some words eliminated in order to meet the 140-character limitation of Twitter.

Here’s how I’ve been using it in practice: I discovered a piece on Rick Perry through @joeruiz, a sharp Texas journalist I follow on Twitter.

I usually like to offer a little bit of editorial comment on links I repost, but doing so here would broach Twitter’s limit. So I resorted to the MT by eliminating the Texas Monthly reference:

Everything else about the tweet is the same. It’s not quite a retweet since I changed it slightly, but via doesn’t fit, either.

MT seems to be appearing with more frequency these days. Consider this a modification of my previous stance: MT might be one to add to your Twitter vocabulary.

What do you think?


There are 6 comments .

jgroves —

Thanks for your comment! I still hold to RT as an indicator that the tweet is exactly what was originally tweeted. You risk offending the original tweeter by taking out even a word or two, and credibility is everything when you’re trying to establish yourself in the social spaces. If you do major editing, you may think you have captured the tweet’s essence, but the original tweeter may feel differently. I use MT or via if I’m changing a tweet at all.

Noni —

Yes, to adopt a journalistic comparison, RT could be considered a direct quote and MT used to paraphrase.

Kitty Kilian

I am afraid I think you may be taking it a bit far. Twitter is not a national newspaper. If there is anything important quoted in your tweet, readers will go back to the source anyhow.

That said, (having been a journalist myself) I always put sources in my tweets, use via and also I always read any article I retweet.

I like your reasoning. But leaving out a source like in the above example while still giving the url seems fine to me. No need to put MT before it.

Rose —

Seems to me it should be perfectly legitimate to RT people and put … in where you’ve omitted something. After all, you can always go to the RT’d person’s feed and see the original. The … option is what you’d use in a text citation where you’ve omitted something.

jgroves —

Thanks for the note, Rose. I think it depends on your audience. Some people might interpret the … as being part of the original tweet (as some people use it for effect as well…). Ultimately, the goal is to be as clear as possible for your audience. I find that most in my Twitter circle use RT to mean “without alteration,” but your audience may differ.


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