New York Times Tells Staff Not To Use The Word “Tweet”

An internal memo at New York Times has instructed reporters to abstain from using the word “Tweet” in their stories. The memo was sent out yesterday by Phill Corbett, the standards editor and goes on to explain that despite being heavily used in some circles, “Tweet” is not a part of standard English language yet.

The memo claims that there are still a large number of people who may be unfamiliar with the social media and would be at a loss to understand the context. The full text of the memo is below courtesy of  AWL:

How About Chirp?

Some social-media fans may disagree, but outside of ornithological contexts, tweethas not yet achieved the status of standard English. And standard English is what we should use in news articles.

Except for special effect, we try to avoid colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon. And tweet— as a noun or a verb, referring to messages on Twitter — is all three. Yet it has appeared 18 times in articles in the past month, in a range of sections.

Of course, new technology terms sprout and spread faster than ever. And we don’t want to seem paleolithic. But we favor established usage and ordinary words over the latest jargon or buzzwords.

One test is to ask yourself whether people outside of a target group regularly employ the terms in question. Many people use Twitter, but many don’t; my guess is that few in the latter group routinely refer to tweetsor tweeting.Someday, tweetmay be as common as e-mail.Or another service may elbow Twitter aside next year, and tweetmay fade into oblivion. (Of course, it doesn’t help that the word itself seems so inherently silly.)

Tweetmay be acceptable occasionally for special effect. But let’s look for deft, English alternatives: use Twitter, post to or on Twitter, write on Twitter, a Twitter message, a Twitter update. Or, once you’ve established that Twitter is the medium, simply use sayor write.

To me, it is a clear proof of why newspapers are failing and can’t seem to keep up with blogs and citizen journalism. They are more worried about following absurd principles than about the quality and timeliness of the message. What do you think, should newspapers avoid using newly coined terms just because they are not part of standard English yet, or should they scratch these policies and be more flexible?

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Tehseen Baweja

Tehseen likes to write about Internet tools that make life easier. Check out his blog at for more good stuff or follow him on Twitter @tehseenbaweja