Why do people start tweets with a period?

6 May

Ever wonder why some of the people you follow begin tweets with a period?

I’m guessing 99.99 percent of the time you have seen this, the . was immediately followed by someone’s @handle, like here:

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 11.42.12 AM

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A tweet that begins with the @handle, meaning the first character of the tweet is the @ symbol, is considered “semi-private.” Tweets that begin with any character – spaces don’t count – other than the @handle, though, are fully public. Meaning…

Let’s say you follow someone. Maybe you follow me. (You probably don’t, but you should!) Every time I tweet a fully public tweet, it shows up in your timeline. But if I start a tweet by mentioning another user – let’s say @NYTimes – you’ll only see that tweet on your timeline if you follow me and @NYTimes. But if you only follow me, you’ll only see that tweet if you go to my profile*, or if someone else you follow retweets me. Here’s an example of that with another user:

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 11.42.21 AM

Semi-private tweets ≠ direct messages, which are only seen by you and the person with whom you’re messaging. But as we learned from Anthony Weiner, best to keep private communications off Twitter.

To break it down: When you follow someone, you see all their public tweets in your timeline, but only see replies if you follow the person to whom they’re replying. By putting the period in front of a @handle so the @ symbol doesn’t lead the tweet, it’s no longer a reply, it’s now a mention, and everyone who follows that user will see it in their timeline.

*The one exception in seeing all of someone’s tweets if you go to their profile applies to verified users. If someone is verified (the checkmark inside the turquoise circle on their profile), by default, their replies are hidden. But a quick toggle from “No Replies” to “All” will allow you to see everything again.

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 11.59.10 AM


One Response to “Why do people start tweets with a period?”


  1. How to Convince People to Join Twitter | CopyPressed - August 29, 2013

    […] seen this continuously trip up veteran social media managers. If you want a tweet to be public, try to incorporate the handle into the middle of the sentence. […]

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