Lots of people like to add things like ♥✩♬♡►♪☺♫ to their tweets for fun, but did you know adding symbols can make your tweets shorter and easier to read too?
Or that there are over 109,000 symbols available? Or that the Wall Street Journal uses symbols to add bar charts to its tweets?
Of course, if you’re mainly into the fun side, symbols can also let you write ǝpısdn uʍop or even black out those ██████ words (now that @SamuelLJackson has joined Twitter). But there’s a lot more you can do with symbols than just start a pie fight:
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about:
- Where To Get Symbols For Your Tweets
- Why Symbols Sometimes Don’t Work
- How To Make Tweets Shorter AND Easier To Read
- The Big List Of Text Emoticons For Your Tweets
- Adding Mini Bar Charts To Tweets (“Sparkbars”)
- Amazing ASCII Art In Tweets
- What Do All Those Symbols Mean, Anyway?
- Writing Upside Down, Blacked Out And Other Tricks
The first step, however, is getting symbols into your tweets! There are three ways to add symbols to your tweets:
- Type them from your computer keyboard’s number pad.
- Copy from somewhere and paste them in.
- Use a tool that adds symbols for you.
Let’s start with the coolest way: An on-screen “click and tweet” typewriter for composing symbol tweets:
1. Where To Get Symbols For Your Tweets
Click And Tweet Apps
There are several on-screen symbol “typewriters” you can use to compose and send tweets. Here’s one I made myself (click it to try it):
On this interface, hover over any symbol and it will be highlighted with a white background if it works on most interfaces. I added that feature to remind me not to use special symbols that many people won’t be able to see (read the next section for why not everyone sees all symbols).
After seeing my simple idea, developer Iván Rodríguez (@Ivan_RG) created the ultimate Twitter symbol interface, Twitter Simbols (also available in Spanish). Like my interface, there is a box to type in, but underneath his, he created this beautiful and extensive set of symbols (below) Just click, and they are added to your tweet! Click to try it:
Most advanced of all, though not as convenient as Twitter Simbols, is TwingDings. Here you get various “alphabets” of ACSII art that your text can be converted into, as well as a large collection of symbols and common art combinations.
For your iPhone, there’s the very cool tweet symbol composing app called Feathers, which has alphabets, symbols and many other features…even morse code:
Type Your Own Symbols
This is very convenient for symbols you find yourself needing frequently. I have several memorized.
To do this, you’ll need to use your computer’s number pad—which means you’ll have to have the NumLock set to “On,” or use the special function key on some laptops which lets you use part of the keyboard as a number pad.
Just typing the number from the top row of your keyboard won’t work. You’ll need to hold down the “Alt” key (option key on Mac) while you type, for this to work. Here’s a video introduction:
For detailed written steps, go here. Plus, here’s a giant list of all the codes you can type, and a guide to typing Alt codes from your laptop.
Here are some common symbols you may want to memorize how to type (you don’t type the “+” key):
- — Alt+0151 or – Alt+0150
- • Alt+7 or · Alt+0183
- ♥ Alt+3 or ☺ Alt+1
- ♫ Alt+14 or ♪ Alt+13
- ► Alt+16 or ◄ Alt+17
- … Alt+0133 (didn’t know those three dots—the ellipses—could be a single character, did you?)
2. Why Symbols Sometimes Don’t Work
Many mobile devices show very few symbols, which is a good reason not to overdo when adding them to your tweets. All they will show is a little box character “□” where the symbol is supposed to be.
What you need to realize is that symbols in tweets are not really images in the sense of being pictures or photos. They are actually just part of the same text character set that gives us numbers, letters, punctuation and so forth.
For that reason, many symbols do not exist as text characters that you can add to tweets, such as company logos and so forth.
3. How To Make Tweets Shorter AND Easier To Read
Here is an example of two tweets, where the one with symbols is 7 characters shorter, and just as easy—if not easier—to read:
- 3 tips: 1) http://bit.ly/pBowO9 2) http://bit.ly/oNEe61 3) http://bit.ly/px9H6F
- 3 tips ►http://bit.ly/pBowO9 ►http://bit.ly/oNEe61 ►http://bit.ly/px9H6F
Here’s an example of using symbols in lists, each saving 8 characters versus the first example:
- Available in: Red / Gold / Green / Blue / Orange
- Available in: Red…Gold…Green…Blue…Orange
- Available in: Red—Gold—Green—Blue—Orange
Remember: The ellipses “…” is just a single symbol if you use it correctly! It doesn’t have to be typed as three periods.
So you can also use it between sentences if you just need to save a character, like this:
- End of sentence. Beginning of new sentence
- End of sentence…Beginning of new sentence
4. The Big List Of Text Emoticons For Tweets
|Sticking out Tongue||:-p||:p|
|Sending A Kiss||:-*||:*|
5. Adding Mini Bar Charts To Tweets (“Sparkbars”)
Or, you can convert numbers directly from your Excel spreadsheet: download Sparkbars! In Twitter! here for Excel. (And here is some information on how to use it.)
6. Amazing ASCII Art In Tweets
Did you know there is a thriving ASCII artists community on Twitter? There are even entire comics strips in single tweets done by @TwitComicStrip!
Check out any of these links for some examples:
Why not give it a try yourself? Here’s a great guide to making ASCII art tweets, and a collection of sample art that you can cut and paste into your own tweets.
6. What Do All Those Symbols Mean, Anyway?
Not sure what a symbol means? Click any symbol below for a definition and WikiPedia article about it. Some have an interesting history in typography.
7. Writing Upside Down, Blacked Out And Other Tricks
- There are several sites that will convert your regular text ʇxǝʇ uʍop ǝpısdn oʇuı.
- Of course, blacking out █████ words is just a trick where you repeat the “█” character several times.
- Some folks just like to add a little drama to their tweets, for example:
▂ ▃ ▅ ▆ █ Type your tweet here █ ▆ ▅ ▃ ▂
¸.•♥•.¸¸.•♥• Type your tweet here •♥•.¸¸.•♥•.¸
What are some of your favorite resources for symbols and art in Tweets? Have a favorite way you like to use symbols, or some great examples of ASCII art?
Leave a link in the comments below of any resources or examples you’d like to share.
This post originally appeared on Buffer and is reprinted with permission.