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Suppose I've written a haiku as 3 consecutive lines with standard punctuation as if it was normal free text, which means I don't use special punctuation at the end of a line just because it's the end of a line but only if normal language rules demand/allow punctuation. Now haikus in their concise nature seem well-suited to be published over Twitter (or your favourite alternative short message format), yet Twitter doesn't seem to support newlines very well while I think much of the beauty of a haiku might as well come from its 3-line structure.

Being rather unexperienced with Twitter and writing poetry, though, I wonder if there is some commonly accepted way to at least convey the notion of "virtual" newlines in a continuous text in some other way, e.g. through the use of punctuation, say a hyphen or slash or whatever. Or maybe this is rather bad advice in general? Even if this is likely not an entirely strict rule there might be commonly accepted approaches to this or at least insights from more experienced writers in how to tackle this problem, if at all. Maybe this problem should just be ignored in favour of a better text-flow.

  • I hope this isn't too subjective or downright off-topic. And of course retagging by veteran users is encouraged. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Apr 27 '15 at 12:51
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    It's only "subjective" if there is no established convention and people start discussing what they think the convention ought to be. I don't think it's appropriate to close a question when the close criteria only apply if the answer is "no". – Jay Apr 27 '15 at 14:16
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    I just tweeted a haiku a couple days ago and the newlines worked fine. (I was using the Android client.) Just FYI. – Monica Cellio Apr 27 '15 at 16:04
  • @MonicaCellio Hmm, then maybe I should actually look further into the technical side of things, since actual newlines would indeed be the best solution. I used Wordpress' automatic Twitter-publishing feature and just typed the message in with the newlines I intended. But thanks for the information. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Apr 27 '15 at 16:07
  • Glad to help. And the question of indicating line-breaks in continuous-text media still stands; it's just that Twitter isn't (always) a case of this. – Monica Cellio Apr 27 '15 at 16:19
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In general, to convey poetic line breaks in "continuous text", replace the line break with a slash. "I've never seen a purple cow./I never hope to see one./But I can tell you anyhow,/I'd rather see than be one."

I don't use Twitter so I can't say if this convention is commonly used there, but it's the normal convention in other contexts.

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    Is it typical to use the slash with no spaces on either side? Whenever I've seen it or used it there have been spaces. Of course, if you're on Twitter every byte counts. – Random832 Apr 27 '15 at 18:39
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    Hmm, I've seen it done with and without spaces. I have no idea which is more common. It probably is more readable with spaces. – Jay Apr 27 '15 at 18:49
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If you hold down the Shift key and press Enter it adds a line break. Apparently it won't work in some clients, but I just tried it on a tweet and it seems to work.

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As Jay already said, the common convention to signify newlines inline are slashes.

On the other hand, if you use Twitter as a publishing medium, it is my opinion that you should develop a poetic form that is native to that channel. There are narrative formats in books (novels), film, comics, radio plays and so on, and there are lyrical forms in books (poetry), film, comics and so on. The "poetic" films, comics, radio plays etc. don't have newlines, because they use the specific "language" of their medium to achieve what poetry achieves with printed words and whitespace.

So, if you plan to use Twitter as a regular publication channel and not only this once, instead of how to represent poetry on Twitter, your question should ask how to write poetry for Twitter.

  • Well, Twitter is only a secondary channel anyway, because of its easy availability and widespread use. I am not planning in any way to adapt my writing to their limitations or the limitations of any other publishing channel (since I primarily write this stuff for me and not for others). I can assure you that this question not an X/Y problem. But still thanks for your insights. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Apr 27 '15 at 15:01
  • I see, then I misunderstood. Why then not Twitter a link to a well-layouted HTML blog post of your poem and maybe add the poem's title or a catch phrase from the poem to the Tweet? – user5645 Apr 27 '15 at 15:06
  • Or, since Twitter now allows to tweet images, why not tweet a screenshot of your poem? – user5645 Apr 27 '15 at 15:08
  • Oh, the link is still there, but I deliberately opted to leave the tilte away for mystery's sake. And a screenshot seems cumbersome and "unusual" when its an inherently written creation you're tweeting, but is an interesting idea. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Apr 27 '15 at 15:08
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    Well, seeing that haikus usually don't rhyme anyway and more often than not there might even be natural punctuation anyway, your suggestion of orienting towards spoken poetry and deliberately leaving away the newlines might serve as a good answer on its own. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Apr 28 '15 at 13:21

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