A Crash Course in Twitter for Women Writers

Women Writers Chat seems to get livelier and livelier every time we run one. Here’s a snippet from the last one on science fiction by women with our guest host Anne Charnock, author of the newly released Dreams Before the Start of Time.

Over the past 9 months of running Women Writers School, I’ve helped a lot of people achieve a lot of firsts: attending Twitter chats, starting blogs, building websites, attending webinars, writing guest blog posts, publishing a first creative piece. It’s a long list of firsts as well as a long list of people who are achieving these things.

I have been really impressed by the sheer number of women writers who are keen to engage with the online world and to use it to support other women writers online. I am especially impressed with the people who are approaching these online technologies for the first time and who power through anyway. 

All of you who’ve done this on your own or with my support: I’m so glad you’re on board with the Women Writers School vision. We’re aiming to get more and more women writers active online so we can really make some noise about writing by women. As one of the biggest, most established social media platforms out there, Twitter is crucial to making this happen.

So for those of you who are approaching Twitter for the first time, here is a crash course for complete beginners.

Let’s Start by Learning the Language of Twitter: A Glossary


Twitter is a social media platform that is often referred to as a microblogging platform.


Tweets are micro-blog posts of a maximum of 140 characters. These 140 characters contain your message, any hashtags you think are related to your message and any the handles of any other users you might want to read your post. Some tweets don’t use any hashtags or handles. Others don’t use any text other than hashtags or handles, but you’re really clever about this, people tend to find these tweets hard to understand.

All of your tweets are visible to anyone who is following you. If you use the default privacy settings on Twitter, anyone can follow you. Your agreement to add them is not required like it is on Facebook.


Hashtags are keywords with a hashtag in front of them. Some are broad, widely popular and frequently used by people all over the world. Others are created to be used for a specific event and might only be of interest to a handful of people.


This is your Twitter screen name. All handles begin with @. You should keep this as short as possible so it takes up as few characters as possible. You can change your handle whenever you want and as many times as you want without losing any followers.


When you find someone you know, or that you’d like to know or who just has an interesting account, you press follow so you will be able to see all of the tweets coming from that account in the timeline on your Twitter homepage.


These are accounts where the owner has clicked follow on your account, allowing them to see all of your tweets in the timeline on their Twitter homepage.


A continually updating list of tweets from all of the people you follow. Once you start following a large number of accounts, this becomes impossible to keep up with. It’s much more effective to monitor what’s happening on Twitter with hashtags on topics you’re interested in.


When you retweet a tweet from another account, all of your followers will see that tweet and it will be clear that you have retweeted it. When one of your tweets is retweeted by another account, all the followers of that account will be able to see your tweet and will know it has been retweeted.

Retweet is usually abbreviated as RT on Twitter and you will often see requests for retweets (eg, Pls RT).


When your handle appears in a tweet from another account, this is a mention. This usually means the account owner wants to connect with you. If you’re working on growing your following and you find the account interesting, reply to them and follow them.


A thread is a series of related tweets. This is a way of getting a message longer than 140 characters out there. Some users mark this with1/2, 2/2. Alternatively, you can write your first tweet, reply to your own tweet to write the second part and keep replying to your own tweet until your message is out there.   

Direct Messages

Direct messages are only seen by the owner(s) of the account you send them to. Direct messages give you a lot more space than 140 characters. You can also create a group conversation with direct messages.

Photos and Videos

If at all possible, add photos and videos to your tweets. These make your tweets stand out in a feed, simply because they are more noticeable and visually attractive.

A Video Crash Course in Twitter

Warning: this video is rough, but it’s meant to be. I did this in one take without having set up a Twitter account in years in order to show just how easy it is to get started.

Now that you have a basic Twitter vocabulary and a sense of how it works, take a look at this video to learn how to:

  1. Create an account
  2. Write a bio
  3. Add a profile photo
  4. Add a background photo
  5. Write your first tweet