I found the Stack Exchange Tweet Buttons can do exactly this and posted a Meta question about it.

The Tweet Button is for instant, easy sharing, but sometimes an article title can be too long to fit in a prepackaged, autogenerated Tweet. When this is the case, should the Tweet be automatically truncated or should the user be required to manually edit the tweet?

Currently the Stack Exchange Tweet Button will give the user a Tweet longer than 140 characters if necessary, and the Tweet can not be sent; instead the user will be given an error message and require them to edit the tweet. An example is below.

enter image description here

Assume the Tweet text is generated programatically; a human can't prescreen all suggested tweets before the user sees the Tweet Button.

Here's Twitter's Offical Documentation on the Tweet Button. Sitepoint also has a guide on How to add a Tweet Button Anywhere and notes the intended use of the Tweet button is to share a link with just a click; not just an edit and a click.

Is it acceptable to require a user to edit a Tweet generated by a Tweet button?

  • To an extent, it's Twitter's fault, too. URLs are supposed to be shortened by t.co automatically so it would've put you quite a few chars under the limit.
    – dnbrv
    Jan 1, 2012 at 0:33
  • 1
    With problems like this I want to know what is the real objective and requirements, and "sharing a link" isn't it really. More likely its "to communicate, to share, to be social, and to be in control". The simple mechanical sharing of a link is none of those, and is more akin to "spam a link". If the real objective was to simply spam a link then not only would the tweet be auto-truncated to less than 140 characters, but would also be automatically truncated without even letting the user preview and edit the tweet. One click - blammo. Pretty sure we don't want that.
    – Erics
    Jan 1, 2012 at 2:28
  • @Erics I think you misrepresent how people actually use sharing functions vs how you wish people used them. Regardless of calling it "spaming a link" it's how most people use Tweet Buttons, and forcing a user to manually edit removes most of the point of a tweet button for that majority of users. You can't force people to be power users.
    – Ben Brocka
    Jan 1, 2012 at 18:07
  • I'm not representing how users actually use the sharing function at all. I'm referring to the design intent.
    – Erics
    Jan 2, 2012 at 2:38

3 Answers 3


I would try to avoid automatic truncation for as long as possible, by gradually abbreviating the generic elements. For instance, in your example I'd first abbreviate Stack Exchange to SE, then, if the tweet is still too long, make it Sci-Fi SE. I don't think it needs to be abbreviated always, only when the tweets are too long.

When the tweet is still too long, I'd suggest a truncated version and let the user edit it.

  • 1
    Agreed. Truncating removes choice in exchange for convenience.
    – Taj Moore
    Jan 2, 2012 at 7:57

Quick answer:

No, it's not acceptable to require a user to edit an auto-generated tweet just to fit the 140 character limit but users should still have the option to review & edit the auto-generated tweet.

Long answer:

Disregarding all best practices & guidelines, the common sense of great experience says, "If you are automating something for the user but letting them approve in the final step, make sure the auto-generated content is compliant with all requirements to minimize user involvement."

The general social media marketing guidelines suggest that all tweets should be ideally no more than 125 characters to allow for old-style RTs (where RT & username are included in the body reducing the available characters for the person who retweets). They also suggest that auto-generated tweets should make sense to readers (i.e. try to avoid truncating words).

So the overall best practice for auto-generated tweets is being concise/short, making sense, and requiring little user editing unless they want something custom. And those who want a custom message can easily modify it because that's the way Tweet This" button works.

The case of answer announcements on Stack:

The purpose of the tweet is to inform your "following" of a question you answered so that they would come visit the site, browse it, and maybe join the community. The key parts in the tweet are the question and the link to it. In addition, the tweet contains a "lead" with the name of the forum and subject & predicate to make a sentence.

Of these three parts, 2 are under total control of admins: the lead and the URL. And the question title isn't controllable. However, admins can also run a query against the database and find out the average character count on all questions ever submitted.

With all this data in their hands, admins need to write a lead that is as short as possible while making sense and put the URL through a shortener (stock like t.co/bit.ly or a custom one) so that the remaining characters of the tweet would fit an average question plus at least 1 standard deviation (Six Sigma might be too tough here). They can also save 7 characters by truncating the protocol declaration http:// from the URL as Twitter will understand & hyperlink it anyway.


I responded to a UX Q: Should a Tweet button yield a suggested Tweet over 140 characters? stkx.ge/1234567

I responded to Sci-Fi Q: Is there any indication that latinum is useful in production? stkx.ge/1234567

I responded to coding Q: load external html into a div replaces content of original page with external html stkx.ge/1234567

I responded to English lang Q: Is this sentence correct - “They want to eat food they know is good for them.”? stkx.ge/1234567

  • Or even: [<question>? My answer: <url>]. I suspect it doesn't really need to have the forum name included either, and the "Q" is redundant too.
    – Erics
    Jan 1, 2012 at 2:37
  • Actually, framing the tweet by presenting the question first might do more to invite participation than putting the statement "I responded to a Q" up front. You responded to a Q eh? Well done, have a cookie.
    – Erics
    Jan 1, 2012 at 2:39
  • Yeah, the shorter the better as long as it's clear that the link is to either a question or an answer.
    – dnbrv
    Jan 1, 2012 at 2:40

I think it boils downs to: is the sharing intent routine or something special?

If you expect users to click share and get off with it with no more effort, then make it so by truncating or using the described techniques on other answers. This will probably give a less meaningful tweet but will make it frictionless.

If you expect users to personalize the tweet, give them the "power" to decide where to trim.

Another consideration is: it is more hassle to rebuild a trimmed tweet than to trim it manually. (Users that wanted to edit would be more penalized if it were automatically trimmed than users that want to send without editing and it is not automatically trimmed.)

Since, as always, it depends on the userbase, I would run some test to see on the >140 character situations how many users, given the "automatically trimmed" option, try to re-format the tweet to their like.

In a personal level, I say a rule of thumb would be give the user the option to edit, like SE does. Sending spamish tweets is not good for the user either.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.