I examined the usability of online texts in my dissertation. I sketched five recommendations for social media editors, based on my research and on my article, The City on Twitter. The five recommendations each appear as a Word of the Week.
Avoid special characters.
In Facebook updates, the channel does not require special characters and you can follow standard spelling. On Twitter, however, you have to start usernames with @ (@HelsinkiAirport) and hashtags with # (#Finland), in which case they become links.
In Finnish, this causes problems, because words change their spelling based on their grammatical case. Usernames and hashtags typically use the nominative case. But if we need any of the fourteen other cases in Finnish, as in a sentence like “Send questions to @HelsinkiAirport”, we can’t use the proper Finnish case ending, or the word won’t become a link. As a result we find strange markings – the standard hashtag or username followed by something to represent the appropriate case: @HelsinkiAirport:lle, @HelsinkiAirport’ssa, @HelsinkiAirport n.
Spelling deviations decrease usability by breaking the rule of consistency. It’s easier to read text that follows standard spelling and grammar. On the other hand, user names and hashtags are important for interactivity and search. For usability and readability of tweets, it is better to avoid unnecessary deviations and aim for standard language by phrasing the tweets in a way that user names and hashtags are in basic forms. If it is too difficult, you can always use a zero-width space before a case suffix.