The Incredible Shrinking Tweet

Study says posts are getting shorter

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Tweets these days ain’t what they used to be. They’re getting smaller.

Between 2009 and 2012, the median length of Twitter posts decreased from 10 words to eight words, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of the Philippines. The study, published Oct. 9, found that “utterances,” which the researchers defined as tweets beginning with the @ symbol and directed at another user, decreased in median length from eight words to five words.

Study authors Christian Alis and May Lim attribute the shortening of tweets to the increased use of jargon, implying Twitter users are self-segregating into subgroups that understand the same lingo, MIT Tech Review reports.

The shortening trend holds true around the world, but the researchers say trends can be seen deeper in the data.

“Southeastern and eastern U.S. states tend to have shorter utterance lengths,” they say.

And you can discard your old assumptions about talkative Southerners and taciturn Westerners. The state with the shortest tweets? Louisiana. The longest? Montana.

If you want to go off ranting about how social media is rotting our brains and destroying the English language you’ll have to reach a little further back than Twitter. In a previous study, Lim and Alis found that the length of utterances in fictionalized English conversations in books and movies have been getting shorter for the past 200 years.

[MIT Tech Review]