ReTweet Etiquette

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with TED’s Chris Anderson. I’m not a big fan of “rules” for social media, but in certain circumstances it does make sense to conform to a certain community-set convention. With the existence of several ReTweet counting services and my ReTweet mapper, a certain regular format can also help make sure your ReTweets are counted and analyzed. Etiquette in social media is also pretty important, as it can help ensure that everyone gets along nicely.

TweetDeck has a ReTweet button so it has defined a kind of de facto standard format for ReTweets. It then places the cursor at the end of the tweet so many people add their own thoughts there.

RT @username: Original Tweet [Your Take]

Here are also some good rules of thumb to remember when ReTweeting:

  1. Do not start the ReTweet with an @ sign, as this will mean that generally only people following both you and the person you’ve @’d will see the ReTweet, defeating its purpose of increased reach.
  2. Try to credit at least the original Twitterer who posted the Tweet. If you have room, also try to credit the person who’s ReTweet you saw.
  3. The most common ReTweet format is RT: @username. Typically this is reserved for the original poster. A good way to credit the person who’s Tweet you saw, try adding (via @username) to the end of the tweet.
  4. If the original tweet included a call-to-action (like “please ReTweet”) try to keep that in your ReTweet, if you have enough room.
  5. If the original tweet has a link in it, keep it there. Also, try not to re-shorten the link using another service.
  6. If the original tweet has a hashtag, try to use it in your ReTweet as well (if you have room).
  7. Try to keep as much of the original tweet intact as possible, but it is acceptable to add your take on it (especially at the end, in parenthesis)

Did I miss anything? Do you have any ReTweet pet peeves? Let me know in the comments below.

If you liked this post, don't forget to subscribe to my RSS feed or my email newsletter so you never miss the science.


Jennifer Fong February 20, 2009 at 11:46 am

Thanks for this. Seems simple, but it’s a concept I’ve struggled with as diff. people seem to have different definitions. It’s nice to have standards to refer to. Cheers!

Marla February 20, 2009 at 11:47 am

Occasionally, multiple retweets both shorten the message and decrease legibility:

RT @retweeter3 RT @retweeter2 RT @retweeter1 RT @tweeter Check out this hilarious video of cute animals falling asleep

In this case I usually RT the original sender, and then add “via @username” for the last retweeter – in other words, the person whose RT caused me to see it for myself – and drop the people in the middle:

RT @tweeter Check out this hilarious video of cute animals falling asleep (via @retweeter3)

Chris Anderson February 20, 2009 at 11:54 am

So the one other issue I’m noticing is that some people are pretty reckless in their editing of the original post.
eg. I tweeted this this morning:

Economic crisis is like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. David Brooks on fire:
about 4 hours ago from web

It got retweeted like this:
RT @TEDchris Economy is like marriage state: 3 parties. the 2 individuals & the common entity. NYT David Brooks:

Same link, but they pulled a different quote from the piece. I don’t dislike it, but it’s certainly not what I said.

So presumably the etiquette should be. It’s fine to edit a retweet for length, provided you don’t change meaninng… but don’t substitute in new text….
Makes sense?

Are Morch February 20, 2009 at 12:08 pm

As I consider myself still as fairly new to Twitter I agree with Jennifer here – you see various definition on this subject.

You have put together a nice ReTweet etiquette here. I belive if you start out learning this etiquette and stick to it, then you will a earn a ReTweet on your own Tweets with time.

You article is bookmarked, and I’ll retweet your tweet.


Trevor Rotzien February 20, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Sensible start.

I agree with Chris Anderson’s additional point. If you RT, you should not change the emphasis or the commentary of the original tweeter, as you’re sabotaging their contribution. If you feel you have to make substantive change, tweet your own version without the RT reference. I’d rather not be quoted than misquoted.

Kimberly Bock February 20, 2009 at 2:20 pm

I agree with @Chris Anderson. When I Tweet something, I Tweet it with my understanding. When it is ReTweeted, I feel it is supposed to be to repeating what I said. When revisions are needed to shorten original words, I like to see 2 in place of to or too, 4 in place of four or for, etc..not replacing words altogether with something I didn’t write because sometimes it ends up something I never intended to say at all.

LoneWolf February 20, 2009 at 3:03 pm

One other thing that I have done with long tweets is to split them into two tweets. As an example:

RT @someone: This is the first part of a really long tweet that won’t fit into 140 characters…

RT @someone: … but you can split it [My comments here]

Not sure how people feel about this, but when RT’ing a quotation it helps.

pasher February 21, 2009 at 3:50 am

I usually RT a person’s original msg when replying to them. That way they can see the tweet of there’s i’m replying to (useful if you @reply several hours later) and gives ppl who may not follow the person some context of the conversation. ex:

you: hey, howz it going?
me: @you I’m doing well & you? RT howz it going?

Srini Kumar February 21, 2009 at 5:58 am

hey, i am a new hubspot client. totally random running into your blog, will explore more.

it’s pretty simple, i twittered about this: it’s a galactic game of “telephone”.

everyone summarizes everyone else via RT, and the meme mutates into a spontaneous dna strand of poetry. boom ! from broadcast, such as a blog, to sort of a peer to peer game of… telephone.

Ignace Rodríguez / @micronauta February 22, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Awesome. I usually use (via @user) too.

Jeff Korhan February 22, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Suggest giving an example next time. Makes it easier for those of us “at-a-glance” readers.

J February 23, 2009 at 6:45 pm

I use twitter to feed my FB status.

In that case, it would be nice if the RT convention were:

Original tweet (RT @user)

Thataway, it’d scan better on FB.

However, there are conventions, so I’ll bite my tongue (mouse?) and follow them.

Alex Schestag February 24, 2009 at 12:51 pm

TweetDeck can’t set a de facto standard as it doesn’t work on any platform. For example, it doesn’t work on Linux with another WM than KDE or GNOME. A standard should work on any platform. But in fact, your recommendations on how to retweet are reasonable and make sense.

CathyWebSavvyPR February 24, 2009 at 2:43 pm

I thik we all struggle with these issues

I’m sure I’m bucking the trend here, but I want the original writer of the tweet/message, to see that I value their content enough to retweet it – that’s a part of my manners/etiquette.

As there are many people who don’t use tweekdeck or even twitter search etc, and don’t see a tweet if it does not have @theirusername at the start.

my steps:
-I copy the post I want to retweet
-then hit reply,
-then paste, using my own symbol <–RT
-and edit if needed (only 4 space)

My retweets looks like this:
“@username <–RT this is where the original tweet goes [any note from me]”

The <– left carrat mark and 1 or 2 dashes looks like an arrow, and helps ID who is the original ‘poster’ of the message. but it does add characters

I also keep it short andgo w/ @briansolis ‘s 120 is the new 140 (to leave room for retweeting if it is good info.

Dan suggested not to start w/ @username – why? All tweets, including replies go out on public timeline – don’t they? Or are you saying that,in general, people skip reading tweets that start w/a username. Actually, I find that i read those more often, as they indicate engagement with followers. It may be just my take.

thanks for posting on a useful topic – I have many new twitter users in my stream, and this is helpful info.

CathyWebSavvyPR February 24, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Oh – here is the original link to the post where Brian coined the “120 is the new 140,” for those who use

@briansolis said this very well: “120 is the new 140. Retweeting is one of the most valuable currencies in the Twitter economy. Leave room in your tweets to make it easier for someone to RT and also add a short reaction or endorsement. The magic number seems to hover around 120 characters.”

CathyWebSavvyPR February 24, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Sorry to weigh in one more time, but just noticed an error I made when retweeting, and have seen it done by others.

Be sure your links are clean when tweeting or retweeting.
That is:
-When you type or copy a link into twitter, or a @username – in order for it to be hyperliked or clickable – it can’t touch any other characters.

@danzarrella obviously works
RT@danzarrella won’t, nor will @danzarrellaRT *

This may sound simple, but I see (and make) these typos all the time, and they get in the way of Twitter’s cool capabilities and decrease the power of your retweet.

Computers programs are literal; it considers all characters touching links be a part of the link or it can’t make it clickable. So stray characters create broken links, or non-clickable text. Anything attached to what it normally considers a hyperlink – http:// or @ symbol for Twitter causes problems.

-Twitter can read (tweetdeck and some other 3rd-party programs need or

-But it can’t read: or: post
and make it a correct clickable for your followers

(*PS for newbies, if you want to to create a clickable twitter link to a twitter username when you are not in twitter it’s )

Eric Rumsey February 27, 2009 at 5:12 pm

If a tweet has a link in, then it seems to me the most important part of a retweet is the link — I’m glad to have an RT if someone else likes the link I tweet about, but wants to edit the text.

Sometimes the text accompanying a link has to be pretty drastically shortened to do an RT — is that considered bad etiquette?

I think it’s you who has written elsewhere about cascading RT’s — RT’s of RT’s … If snipping of text is bad etiquette, that puts a crimp on cascading.

If the etiquette of Retweeting hardens too much, I’d guess people will just use a simple @ reply instead — Seems to allow more flexibility.

Make Money Online February 27, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Great twitter tips, thanks =)

Eric Rumsey March 3, 2009 at 12:38 pm

How about an rt PRECEDED BY your own text — adding the rt @JohnDoe after your edited version of comments — that way the original maker of the link gets credit. Here’s an example, with my tweet first …
Health & spirituality : Jean Kristeller, Indiana St Univ

It’s fine with me that ChristineKraft has changed the text, and given me the RT …
Her work helps doctors explore the body + spirit connex w/ patients: RT @ericrumsey: Jean Kristeller

Christine Kraft March 3, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Following up on Eric’s comment.

I did pause for a moment to determine whether my editorial re-work of the Tweet changed Eric’s intention, or to what extent it changed it. In this case, since Eric promoted Jean Kristeller by name, I thought it was okay to add a bit of juice to that promo, since I was impressed by what I read about her work. I thought her university affiliation was extraneous given the 140 character limit.

If I disagreed with his Tweet, I would have offered a clear “I disagree” or something to that effect up front, to call out that I was taking the original tweet in a different direction.

Jason Jardine March 5, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Re Rule 6.

I’d like to talk about the use of hashtags within a re-tweet. While I can see the point of them to an extent, in some ways they serve only to irritate. Let me explain by way of example ….

I, like many on Twitter, am currently following the exploits of @Twitchhiker as he tries to travel the world using nothing but assistance from his fellow twitterers.

As part of his journey, he updates his blog and asks for more help, and regularly requests re-tweets. Even when he doesn’t ask for re-tweets, people are in the habit of re-tweeting, no doubt to be helpful in spreading the word. I’m not against this per se. However, this can occur multiple times per day.

His last such twitter was as follows ….

“Please RT: New blog post Day 4 / 5 – into Germany (apologies – little bit rushed) #twitchhiker”

All well and good, and as expected a number of his followers then re-tweet the message thus …

“RT @twitchhiker: Please RT: New blog post Day 4 / 5 – into Germany (apologies – little bit rushed) #twitchhiker”

The trouble with this (imho) is that if you’re following #twitchhiker, you get inundated with dozens if not potentially hundreds of re-tweets of a message you’ve already read. The point of a re-tweet is to bring the post to more people’s attention, so why re-tweet it back to the very people who were reading it in the first place ?

Of course anyone interesting in following the twitchhiker will, upon reading the above, simply go to his page and follow him. Those so inclined will quickly realise it’s been hashtagged, and do a search view instead, but the RT doesn’t need both bits of info.Obviously the @ should be there to credit the original tweet as per your rules, and inclusion of that tag will allow anybody to find twitchhiker, read about his exploits, find his blog and see that he’s also a hashtag.

And so, in conclusion, I suggest that if the requester of the re-tweet is also the subject of a hashtag, then including the hashtag is not only surplus to requirements, but actually borders on spamming. To that end, the hashtag should NOT be included.

Rachel Soma March 31, 2009 at 12:50 pm

@CathyWebSavvyPR many people choose to not see @replies directed to people they are not following – That’s why the convention of ‘RT: @user original message and #hash’ is better – it reaches the maximum number of people

Rob O. April 12, 2009 at 9:27 am

Edward Lewis has an interesting take on ReTweets in his Twitter Retweets – RT @ Rules of Engagement post. I like his idea of “front-loading” the Tweet and keeping the RT @ credit(s) at the end.

I do this also when I’m replying to multiple Twitter users so the “meat” of the Tweet will be right at the beginning. This works especially well now that Twitter has improved their @Replies tab functionality. Makes for cleaner-looking posts.

jen April 27, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Today, I tweeted a big item of interest. Someone DMd someone about it and THEY tweeted it. I HATE STUFF LIKE THIS!!!! And, through Twitter Serach you can ascertain the culprits. Seriously. This is so inconsiderate.

Stacy June 8, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Does anyone know a tool that quantifies the number of RTs your profile has generated? TIA.

3ring June 10, 2009 at 11:51 am

Hey Dan,
Thanks for this… but one last question (or two): Is it polite to thank others for retweeting your original post? And if so, how?

Terence Eden June 17, 2009 at 3:45 am

Another factor to consider is how many of your followers will have seen the original tweet? If all your friends follow @edent (me!) – is it worth your retweeting?

That’s why I created this quick little site to tell you how many of your followers you’ll annoy with each retweet.

Calvin June 23, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Thank you for this! I now know that I’ve been retweeting the wrong way but now I know what to do!

Jeff Mitchell October 14, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Ok, I have a question along these lines that has bothered me for awhile.

I visit Slashdot, and have for a long time. I don't follow them on twitter as /. is my homepage anyway, and I have specific content filters set up on their site.

slashdot has a twitter account and some sort of auto tweeting going though.

Often when I want to point friends at an article through twitter I want to point them straight to the main article of interest that slashdot may have linked to in their post.

What's the etiquette here? Can I just tweet and point to the main article slashdot linked to (like a NY time article for example).

Do I have to point to the slashdot page first?
Do I credit slashdot?

My approach so far has been to tweet my comment, a link straight to article, and give a nod to slashdot using 'via @slashdot'.


z00m3r November 2, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Great article! But can you point out a larger version of your pic “etiquette.jpg” from this page — the fancy table setting/chart? thnx

Vanessa November 10, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I guess it all comes down to the application you are using to view your twitter feed. I use Tweetie for Mac and if someone @ replies me… I can “see” the conversation they are reply-ing to even if it is several hours later. This is one of the reasons I swapped to tweetie.

Tho' I see your point. I have a have someone on my twitter that does this.. it's interesting as it allows me to “see” the conversation he is having as such too… not just “his” half of the conversation.

shalinibahl December 3, 2009 at 5:12 am

I too use twitter to update fb and always put the RT @ at the end so it reads better on fb and I think it is ok to do that – we are still acknowledging the person and it reads better.

ianbrodie December 6, 2009 at 12:37 pm


You can use to see how many times you're retweeted.


ianbrodie December 6, 2009 at 8:37 pm


You can use to see how many times you're retweeted.


Bill Nigh September 24, 2010 at 5:19 pm

You want the word “whose”, not “who’s”

{ 6 trackbacks }