UPDATE: As some of the commenters have noted, Twitter has changed things again since this article was published, and it appears that you have to now add a period before the @ reply tweets if you want all your followers to see that tweet.
You may have noticed that pretty often on Twitter, you’ll come across a tweet with a period in the front of it. Specifically, this happens in front of a username at the beginning of the tweet. All of these tweets aren’t merely coincidences, so you might wonder why so many people include periods.
Here’s a brief explanation as to why that is, and why you don’t ever have to worry about using it yourself. The short answer: it no longer serves any purpose on Twitter, though it did previously.
Why People Use Periods in Front of Twitter Usernames
The habit of placing periods in front of a Twitter username originated from the way the social network previously operated. Before the “reply” button existed, users had to manually type out the @ symbol with someone’s username to mention them in a tweet.
Later on, Twitter added a reply button and created visual hierarchies for conversations. However, to keep the timeline decluttered, Twitter automatically hid any tweets that began with a username. This was so one person’s followers didn’t have to see every single conversation they got involved in. Instead, it would only show replies and conversations between two people that you already follow.
— Shazam (@Shazam) June 30, 2017
This served its purpose to keep the timeline clean, but unfortunately created a separate issue. Any time someone wanted to start a tweet with a username, it wouldn’t show up for the majority of their followers, unless they were somehow all following both. If you wanted to say “@username is so cool” Twitter would treat this as a reply, so it wouldn’t appear in the timeline.
Periods would allow everyone to see the tweet whether they follow @username or not.
As a workaround, people began putting periods in front. “[email protected] is so cool” was a quick way to bypass Twitter making it a reply, and it would allow everyone to see the tweet whether they follow @username or not.
As of 2017, this is no longer necessary. Some users still add the period out of habit though — or they don’t know Twitter updated how replies work. Read on for why the days of period replies are over.
Why You Shouldn’t Use These Periods Anymore
Twitter completely changed the way replies and conversations work on the website and mobile apps. Now, replies are initiated exclusively through the Reply button. (Before, you could also start typing the username too.)
As of 2017, this is no longer necessary.
Plus, usernames in replies are hidden and don’t count toward the 140-character limit anymore. So you can reply to as many people as you want in a thread and don’t have to worry about their long usernames hogging up your allotted space to complete a sentence.
.@LaurenScruggs, who was badly injured by an airplane, was great on The Today Show!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2012
As a result, you no longer have to type a period before typing a username to get all of your followers to see the tweet. Since replies don’t involve typing usernames anymore, Twitter now assumes you aren’t replying if you type one – whether at the beginning or end of a tweet. Plus now there’s more room to spice up your tweets.
If you know someone who still tends to include the period when mentioning a user, share this article with them to let them know it’s okay to ditch the punctuation mark!
Last updated on 03 February, 2022
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