The Surprising Up Side to Being Unable to Edit Tweets

Scenario:

You’re going about your everyday life, when suddenly a hilarious thought pops into your head. This thought is so brilliant, so clever. You must share it. Excitedly, you grab your phone and open the twitter app. Your fingers hurriedly type the tweet, rereading and editing it multiple times to make it perfect.

This is it. The greatest tweet you’ve ever written.

Heart pounding, you hit ‘send’. Smiling contentedly, you reread over your sent tweet, when suddenly—oh no. No, no! It cannot be! A typo! You stare at the typo, crestfallen. Sighing deeply, you turn your head away from the tweet. A tear slides slowly down your cheek as you look outside the window. It is raining. Sad music plays softly in the distance as you gradually lift your phone back up. As you stifle a gentle sob you add a second tweet to the first, correcting the typo.

The music grows louder and more intense. You emphatically toss your phone down onto the nearest cushioned surface. It lands with a muffled fwoomph. In a fit of passion, you throw your hands up towards the ceiling, inwardly cursing. Cursing yourself for missing the typo; cursing twitter for not having an ‘edit tweet’ option.

Okay, sure… maybe that scenario was a tad dramatic. However, it is true that twitter doesn’t have an edit option and many twitter users don’t realise that their tweet has a typo in it until afterwards. This can understandably cause some frustration. But did you know that there is a benefit to twitter’s tweets not being editable?

Because tweets can’t be edited, you can read a tweet knowing that its present condition is the only version of that tweet. That is, you know that those exact words in that exact order have always been the same words in the same order for that particular tweet.

But here’s the up side: Due to this dependability in a tweet’s content, the online Oxford English Dictionary (OED) takes a fair amount of quotations from twitter to use as real-world examples for word definitions. As OED’s most recent blog post states, “…the lack of an ‘edit’ button…allows us to be certain that a quotation…was posted in the form in which we find it, on the date given” (para 2). That means that if tweets could be edited, the OED would be less able to use quotes from tweets and therefore many word definitions would have far fewer examples of a word’s usage.


Did anybody else toss their phone down onto their bed to hear what it would sound like?

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