Magazine editors and writers often get caught up in the vagaries of grammar only to discover—after 15 minutes spent bickering over the serial comma or the dangling modifier—most readers don't particularly care. Except when they do.
Last month's "We Asked, You Twittered," in which we printed readers' Twitter messages was pretty well liked. But there are, apparently some members of the Twitterverse (sorry) who disagree, demanding that we use the verb "tweeted" instead of "twittered". Ryan Carson twittered (or is it tweeted?) in defense of the tweet and yesterday we got a surprisingly angry letter saying that "twittered" is, well, just about as uncool as you can get—"like Alice on the Brady Bunch waving a peace sign and shouting "Groovy" to Marcia and Greg. Not a lot of street cred."
Why people are so animated about this is beyond me. But I thought it'd be worth offering some reasons why Inc. picked "twittered" instead of "tweeted" (or, "twatted," as Stephen Colbert would have it). Grammatically speaking, "tweet" is an intransitive verb, whereas "twitter" can act as a transitive or intransitive verb. In other words, your 11th grade English teacher would be okay if Shaq "twittered" his whereabouts but not if he "tweeted" them.
Another reason for using "twittered" is that it makes more sense to somebody who isn't that familiar with the service. Many people have heard of Twitter, Inc. but they don't necessarily know what a tweet is. If we used "tweeted" our headline might seem cool to early-adopting Twitter fiends, but it would make no sense to the vast majority of us noobs. And nobody says "I googed," they google.
But maybe Twitter deserves a new word. I emailed co-founder Biz Stone to ask what he thinks:
Ultimately, whatever gets used more will probably win out but my personal thought is that Twittering is the verb that refers to the act of creating a tweet which is the noun. However, you may catch me tweeting one day so don't hold me to that!
So Biz is with us--sort of, and for the time being--but he's open to a new coinage. What do you think? Is it tweeted or twittered? Let us know in the comments (or on Twitter) and you just might end up on the old dead tree mail page.
Last updated: Mar 27, 2009
Senior contributing writer MAX CHAFKIN has profiled companies such as Yelp, Zappos, Twitter,
Threadless, and Tesla for the magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. @chafkin