The Twitter Tutor

After a short break, the professor told his class that there were no hard rules on Twitter. That said, etiquette

After a short break, the professor told his class that there were no hard rules on Twitter. That said, etiquette was important. Don’t Tweet more than three to five times a day, he suggested, because too much tweet from one person gets annoying. Most importantly, be concise. Twitter allows you to express yourself in a maximum of 140 characters. But Mr. Sreenivasan advised his class to use only 120—the better to encourage re-tweeting. Mr. Sreenivasan gave each student a “short tweet guide” the size of a business card, with various tips for writing on Twitter, including a list of helpful abbreviations, such as LOL for “laugh out loud” and OMG for “oh my God.”

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The class was packed with accomplished New York writers. Jeffrey Kittay, the founder of Lingua Franca magazine, sat alongside a VP of communications for Sony. Nearby, there was a former top producer for CBS News, a former editor of Time Europe and a senior correspondent for AOL News.

Marie Brenner, a writer-at-large for Vanity Fair, whose 1996 article had been turned into the movie The Insider, starring Al Pacino, signed up for the class, she recently told The Observer, out of curiosity and “to learn the tools.” She was excited to study Facebook and Twitter. “For me, it’s as much a social laboratory as a necessity,” she said.

“They’re trying to drag us all into the new world—a world that took off years ago,” she added. “We all have to learn the new, new, new.” Ms. Brenner skipped the first class.

Paula Balzer, a literary agent and co-founder of a blog called Ad Hoc Mom, said she looked forward to someday telling her daughter that she’d learned Twitter at the most prestigious journalism school in the country. “It will be like telling her I went to Columbia to learn how to use a telephone,” said Ms. Balzer.

Lee Kravitz, the former editor in chief of Parade, was taking the class in hopes of harnessing social media to promote his new book, called Unfinished Business, which Bloomsbury is publishing in May. He said he already liked Facebook. Just the other day, he had reconnected with a childhood neighbor he hadn’t seen for 30 years. Would Facebook help him sell more books? “Who knows?” said Mr. Kravitz. “I’m still trying to figure out tweeting. It’s not second nature to me. But I’m soldiering on.”
Rona Cherry, a former executive editor at Glamour who now does media consulting, said she was taking the class to fine-tune her understanding of social media.

The Twitter Tutor