How To Twitter: Why Do People Put a Period in Front of Tweets?

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Have you ever been surfing through your Twitter feed and found a tweet or two that starts with a period (“.”)? Perhaps something like “.@Forechecker really needs to cut down on the hockey chatter“?

There’s a very good reason for it, actually, it’s not just a case of poor typing! Today’s How To Twitter tip shows you when & why you might want to start your tweets with a full stop…

To Reply, or Not To Reply – That Is the Question

Twitter handles back-and-forth conversations by using “replies”. If you want to write a tweet to a specific user, you just click the “Reply” link, and you write a tweet that begins with their account name, such as “@Forechecker what an excellent point you just made, I do believe that’s Tweet of the Year material.

This leads to a common mistake which I’ve seen folks make over and over again, however. If you just write a tweet from scratch, and start it with someone’s handle, Twitter assumes that this is a Reply.

Let’s take an example from the world of hockey, since that makes up the bulk of my Twitter stream:

In this case, Taylor Beck (a player with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals) is talking about his teammate @matekh14, Swedish defenseman Mattias Ekholm. Ekholm has apparently introduced Beck to the wonders of Ikea, and Beck is sharing that news with the world.

The problem is, the world won’t see this tweet!

Replies Aren’t for Everyone to See

Because that tweet starts with an account name (@matekh14), Twitter assumes that this is a Reply, instead of something which is meant for everyone to see. As a result, the only people who will see this pop up in their feed are the two people involved (@taybeckone9 & @matekh14) and anyone who follows BOTH of those accounts. If you follow just one or the other, you won’t see this in your general feed.

The solution that people came up with for this situation is to insert a period (“.”) at the beginning of a tweet, so that Twitter doesn’t see it as a Reply, and shares it with all of your followers. You can visualize it with the following example, in which @A is giving credit to @B for bringing her some coffee. If Twitter thinks that this is a Reply, it will only show the tweet to people who follow both @A and @B.

The circles represent the people who follow @A and @B on Twitter (those who follow both of them are where the two circles intersect), with the shaded area representing the portion of those people who would see each tweet:

why do you put a period before @ on twitter
When you begin a tweet with the “@” symbol, Twitter assumes it’s a Reply, and only shows it to people who follow both you and the subject of your tweet.

In this case, Beck should have written “.@matekh14 convinced me to go to his favorite Swedish store (ikea) to buy our furniture for the yr. 5 hours later and all done #emptypockets“.

So there’s your rule: if you mention someone’s handle at the start of a tweet, and want everyone to see it, insert a period first!

If you want to try this method out, just click here and share this tip with your followers!

Want to learn more about Twitter?

One of the best books I’ve seen lately on the subject of using Twitter (as well as Facebook, Instagram and more) to help get your message out to the masses is Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk (that’s an Amazon affiliate link). It’s loaded with powerful, actionable insights on how to use each social media platform to its best advantage. Give it a read!

  • cняıs

    So confusing :/

  • Stevie D

    But using the dot breaks the thread, correct, so folks who get to see it, don’t know the context (why you tweeted)?

    • Dirk Hoag

      What I’m referring to here isn’t about maintaining a thread, but rather crafting a fresh tweet about someone else.

      If you tweet “@Fred is wearing a cool hat today”, Twitter thinks that’s a reply to @Fred. If you instead tweet “.@Fred is wearing a cool hat today”, all your followers will see that message.

      • Plazmic Flame

        For anyone wondering about @twitter-41391446:disqus’s question, Twitter now keeps the thread together if you use the “insert period at the beginning” method.

  • IAmTrueStar

    But if you @ someone in your news feed, all of your followers will see it. A period isn’t necessary.

    • Dirk Hoag

      Straight from Twitter’s FAQ:

      “People will only see others’ @replies in their home timeline if they are following both the sender and recipient of the @reply.”

      Your followers will only see the reply if they also follow the person you’re having a conversation with.

  • Graham Soult

    Surely the same can be achieved – usually more elegantly – by making sure that there is *any* other word or character before the Twitter handle being mentioned? So, my approach is to say something like “My mate @matekh14 convinced me to go to his favorite store (ikea) to buy our furniture for the yr. 5 hours later and all done #emptypockets” With a bit of thought, it’s usually easy enough to move the @ away from the beginning!

    • Dirk Hoag

      Quite true, Graham, but the “.” has the advantage of brevity, which can be essential at times.

      • Graham Soult

        Ah yes – always the fateful ‘-1′ after you’ve composed your beautifully crafted tweet! :)

    • Irasema

      I’m with Graham. While I appreciate the quick trick of the period, why not take a moment to find a combo of the brevity wihtout the period at the beginngin? TY @matekh14. convinced me 2 go 2 his fav Swedish store (ikea) to buy our furniture 4 the yr. 5 hours later and all done #emptypockets.