This is what the future looks like, Jack.

Twitter’s Character Assassination

Dave Pell
3 min readSep 26, 2017


Dear Twitter,

Don’t raise the limit from 140 characters to 280 characters. It’s not for me. I’m asking for my kids. (Update: Twitter rejected my request. But this essay is still woke as fuck…)

There’s been only one positive to emerge during the past several years of my Twitter addiction. My writing has gotten better. And I have Twitter to thank. Several times a day, I take a meaningless thought I’ve expressed in too many characters and edit that meaningless thought down to fit into a Tweet. It’s made all of my writing better. I haven’t written a run-on sentence since 2006.

Like Ivanka following her father to the White House, I know my kids will want to follow in my footsteps and waste a significant portion of lives in a sad quest to be Internet famous. Put them to the same the same test I’ve been forced to pass approximately 38,800 times since you launched. Make them make it shorter. Then, one day, they too will get English papers back from teachers with a note describing their work as pithy, taut, concise, succinct, terse, snappy, synoptic, crisp, brief, compact, focused, precise, streamlined, direct, logical, economical, compendious, and epigrammatic — but never all of those, because their teachers will have been using Twitter too!

Twitter is like a modern-day version of a letter to the editor. Have you ever read a letter to the editor that wouldn’t have been better shorter?

And I’m not trying to pile on here. I oppose the idea of 280 characters, but I admit it’s weird that a bunch of crackheads are mad their dealer gave them twice as much crack.

OK, maybe I buried the lede (something, because of the 140 character limit, I’ve never done on Twitter):

If you raise the limit during the Trump era, you’re effectively doubling the chances of a nuclear exchange with North Korea.

Short of world destruction, do you really want to make this tweet possible:


That’s what 280 looks like, Jack.

If you’re dead-set on a 140 character adjustment, at least consider moving the needle in the other direction; making the limit zero characters. A cursory review of your system logs from the last 11 years will make it clear that’s the ideal writing length for most of your users.

On a more serious note (well, more serious than the SAD! Tweet, but less serious than thermonuclear war), the reason Twitter thrived is because people were not intimidated by a big blank page that reminded them of the essays they dreaded during youth. Most people hate writing. Hence our societal move toward emojis and animated GIFs as a main mode of communication. 140 characters is so short that it doesn’t feel like writing. It certainly doesn’t feel like you need to be a writer to participate. 280 moves you away from “everyone can do it” and towards, “this is a great place for English majors.” And trust me, as an English major, that’s not a path that leads to an increased stock market valuation.

I’ve been here since the very beginning, and I’ve always believed the character constraint is precisely what set people free.

If what you want is length, do what we did back in the day: Double space.

I could go on. But I won’t. Medium articles are better shorter too.

Dave Pell Writes NextDraft: It’s Pithy as Shit.



Dave Pell

I write NextDraft, a quick and entertaining look at the day’s most fascinating news.