28 Sep 2012

Twitter etiquette: RT, MT, and via

Posted by dumpendebat

It seems to me that a lot of people on Twitter don’t know how credit-attribution and quoting other people’s tweets is supposed to work.

It goes without saying, or it should go without saying, that you should never just copy the text of somebody else’s tweet and tweet it yourself; that’s really bad etiquette. The original tweeter should get proper credit. This is why we retweet each other’s tweets. But what’s the right way to do that?

Well, here’s the drill:


“RT” stands for “retweet.” Anything that comes after “RT” in a tweet should be the original text of the tweet you’re retweeting, verbatim, character for character. If you want to add a hashtag or a comment to the original tweet, do it BEFORE the “RT,” not afterwards. When you say “RT,” everyone who sees your retweet should be able to have confidence that you haven’t messed with the text of the original tweet at all.


“MT” stands for “modified tweet.” You should use “MT” instead of “RT” if you have altered the text of the original tweet IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER, even if you did nothing but make one of the words in the original tweet into a hashtag. If you have so much as deleted one character from the original tweet to make it fit, you really need to use “MT” instead of “RT,” so that everyone who sees it knows that you have altered the original tweet in some way.

“Native retweets”

If you use the “retweet” button on the Twitter website or in one of the official Twitter apps, you’re doing what Twitter calls a “native retweet.” I am not a fan of native retweets, for the following reasons:

  1. Native retweets don’t show up in Lists. If somebody you’re following retweets something this way, you will see it in your own timeline and in that person’s timeline (if you happen to go to the trouble of looking at their timeline), but you will NOT see it in a List. If you’re not following someone, but you do read their tweets by having them as a member of one of your Lists, you won’t see their native retweets at all.
  2. You cannot alter a native retweet in any way, simply because that’s not how they work. This is not altogether a bad thing; when you see a native retweet, you can be sure that the retweeter did not alter the original tweet in any way, because there’s simply no way they could have — native retweets don’t work that way. But if somebody tweeted something you like and you wish to share it with your own followers, you’re stuck with the verbatim text of the original tweet if you go this route: you can’t add a hashtag of your own, you can’t turn one of the words in the tweet into a hashtag… For this reason, I do not find native retweets very useful.
  3. When you native-retweet something, your followers will see the original tweeter’s avatar in your timeline, which might take them aback.

Pretty much the only time I will use Twitter’s native-retweet feature is if the original tweet is just too damn big for me to “RT” or “MT” it. This is why it’s a good idea to try and keep your tweets down to 120-125 characters whenever you can, so that somebody else will have room to RT you.


“Via” is a way of giving somebody credit for bringing something to your attention without RTing or MTing their tweet. Sometimes I’ll come across something on Twitter that I want to share with my followers, but I don’t want to retweet it: maybe their tweet consisted of a link and their own comment on it, and I don’t care about their comment, I just want to share the link. In that case, I’ll create my own short URL and compose my own tweet. But I still like to give credit where credit is due; this is where “via” comes in handy. Rather than just tweet the item, implying to my followers that I found the item on the Web myself, I will add “via @whoever” at the end of my tweet, thus giving the original tweeter credit — they at least get a Mention out of it.

This, readers, is proper etiquette on Twitter.

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