Twitter Characters: The simple guide to Twitter’s unique symbols

by Hannah Newlin on May 19, 2010

Twitter characters are unique. For the new user or for the user that is planning to activate their previously dormant account, the initial understanding of how people are communicating could be confusing.  Thankfully, the symbols are pretty straightforward once they are explained simply and clearly.  Today we are going to provide a listing of Twitter symbols and their meaning.  We will then discuss the Twitter language (i.e. Tweet, Follow, etc.) and provide a guide for what each term means.

Twitter Characters


The @ sign signifies that you are commenting directly to someone (i.e. @hannahnewlin).  Once you put the @ symbol in front of a username, the person you are messaging will receive a notification.  This comment will be something that will show up on your personal profile page that other people can see, and it will be a comment that will show on the newsfeed of the person you sent it to and your mutual friends. Think of it like “group text messaging”.

Note: There should be no space between the @ symbol and the username.


This is a direct message. It is similar to an email as no one else can see this. It will still be required to meet the character specifications (no more than 140 characters). When you input this you must have a space between the d and the username (i.e. d hannahnewlin). If there is no space (dhannahnewlin) it will show up on your newsfeed, and that could get sticky.


This symbol is known as a retweet.  It’s basically forwarding a message that you like to all of the people that follow you. This is a great way for messages and links to spread exponentially.  A best practice is for you to credit the tweet that you are retweeting. If you click the retweet button on your newsfeed page this will happen automatically. If you use the RT symbol and copy and paste, simply add a (via @username) after the RT.


This is called a hashtag and represents a group topic. When a tweet is put out on Twitter with a hashtag (i.e. #TED or #womenshealth) in it, then it becomes public for any user to search on Twitter and find out what the Twitter world is saying around the topic of the TED Conference or Women’s Health. You will find this when you are finding people that are discussing a particular subject or event they are attending.  They’ll simply search #TED and will see a feed that looks like the below.

Using Twitter: Basic Twitter Terms

Below is a listing of the various twitter specific characters and terms.  This will provide a basic knowledge of the Twitter language.


This is your personal page that no one else sees. When you log on this is the page that you see that has all recent posts from those people that you are following.


This is what other people see when they go to your page.


These are the people that you have chosen to follow on Twitter. Their updates will post on your newsfeed.


These are the people that have chosen to follow you. Whenever you post something, your post will show up on their news feed.  You will not see their updates unless you choose to follow them as well.


This is the term for posting. When you post something you “Tweet” it.


When you choose to “retweet” something, it is because you find someone else’s comment/ information valuable. So you simply retweet it so it will go out to all of your followers as well.


Twitter is constantly evolving and there are many other terms that are used.  Feel free to post more terms that you are aware of in the comments.  Above are the basic Twitter symbols and terms to get you started.

Tweet away!


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Walter May 25, 2010 at 1:07 am

These are helpful Hannah. The only symbol I know on Twitter is the @ sign. :-)


Hannah Newlin May 28, 2010 at 9:39 am

Haha :) I know right? They’ve definitely created a new way of communicating online!


Victoria Carter September 1, 2010 at 4:25 am

I am trying to get an understanding on the symbols that are n the lower right hand corner of all the messages. What do they mean and when do u use them?


Hannah Newlin September 1, 2010 at 9:32 am

Hi Victoria,
Are you talking about the “reply” and “retweet” buttons? Here’s how they work:

Reply – The reply button will send a reply to person that posted the particular message you are clicking on. The reply will read like”@name” when you click on it. Then you type your reply message to your friend and hit send. The @name person will receive a notification. In addition, any mutual friends will see what you said to @name.

Retweet – The retweet button when you click it will publish the message you are clicking to your newsfeed and all of the people that are following you will be able to see it. It’s kind of like sending a forwarded email to your email list, but more respected… :)

Does that help? If you are referencing different symbols, let me know which symbols and I’ll explain gladly.


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