Hashtag Blindness Part 1

Nat RussoHumor, Twitter 47 Comments

A year ago, when I began posting regular writing advice on Twitter, I decided things were getting a little too serious. I mean, who wants to hear nothing but boring writing tips all the time without an ounce of humor? So I started posting…let’s call it less than good advice under the hashtag #HorribleWriteTip. A typical “horrible” writing tip would look something like this:

Commas should be, spaced evenly…every, three words, tops. The Shatner comma.  #HorribleWriteTip

Obvious it’s a joke, right? WRONG! That seemingly innocent hashtag helped me uncover something insidious spreading around my beloved interwebs: Hashtag Blindness. I encourage you to read on so that together we can put an end to this soul-crushing affliction.


I’ve Done Something Wrong

That was my first thought. I had just posted something that I thought was funny, with an obvious hashtag, and silently chuckled to myself. Every favorite, retweet, and “LOL” warmed the cockles of my heart. [I assume it was my cockles. There was a distinctly warm feeling involved.] I had just crafted a funny! It went something like this:

To highlight a character’s habit, have them perform the action at least once every paragraph. Drive it home! #HorribleWriteTip

After some funny responses from followers, I receive the following tweet [names excluded to protect the guilty]:

What a moron! I can’t believe you’d suggest this! /unfollow.

You know they’re serious when they emote what they’re about to do gamer style! I jest, but this sort of threw me off balance. I had been trying to establish a reputation that people could trust, and all of a sudden I started losing followers. Don’t get me wrong…I was gaining more than I was losing. But up to that point it was a steady increase. 

I started questioning myself, but in much the same way I approach everything else, I decided to just keep at it for a while and push through. I wasn’t going to let one negative response get in my way.

So I added another “horrible” writing tip:

Never a bad idea to include a nude photo with your query letter. What have you got to lose? #HorribleWriteTip

The hate poured in:

I’ve never read something so offensive in my life. I’m unfollowing you.

It was nice of them to warn me. If that was the most offensive thing they’ve ever read, they’ve obviously never read my work. 

Next response:

U shud be shamed. Many girl gonna do this!

You mean like publicly shamed? Or something else? Besides, I was talking to the guys. 

Next response:

You’re kidding, right?

Nope. Dead serious.

So I decided to try a different one. I mean, there must be someone out there who can see the hashtag at the end of the tweet, right? I added the following horrible writing tip to the queue:

Their, They’re, There…doesn’t matter. The reader knows what you mean. #HorribleWriteTip

You’d think I’d be smart enough to realize this was a bad idea, right? The responses poured in. They all looked similar to this one:

Your the reason quality of self-published books is going downhill.

Irony of the above response aside, I was beginning to get a little discouraged. No…a lot discouraged. I was just trying to give people a little giggle once or twice a day. I think I have a good sense of humor. I like to laugh, and I like making other people laugh even more. I wanted to share that side of myself. So I pulled myself up by the proverbial bootstraps and tried again.

Your character names should be no more than 1 syllable long. Why overcomplicate things? #HorribleWriteTip

The responses began to take on an educational tone:

No dear. It’s really a good idea to vary the names up.

Another response included a link to several recommended craft books. It was a well-intentioned effort to gently point out my “mistake”. I commend that person. They weren’t rude, and they didn’t unfollow me. I replied back and (in a humorous way) pointed out the hashtag. We both had a good laugh and moved on.

Yet another response, from an avid follower, politely suggested I drop the horrible write tips. This person told me that my other writing tips were wonderful, but the humor of the horrible ones watered down the value of the serious ones.

Where am I going with all of this? I promised, some time ago, that I would compile a list of the angry responses I get to my horrible writing tips and share them. Every day around 9am-ish CST I tweet another one (I have a list of about twenty that I rotate, and the list grows all the time). Pretty much about a minute after tweeting I’ll receive a string of heated responses. I’ll keep compiling them and share some of the funnier ones with you all here. After all, I called this article “Part 1” for a reason!

I’ll never “out” anyone, so don’t ask. I understand that mistakes are made, and we’re all human. Lord knows I’ve shared a good chuckle with some of you over this very subject, and we’re all still good friends. Hell, I make my fair share of mistakes daily!

But I reserve the right to attempt to make others laugh. 🙂


[I’m afraid the disease is still rampant, my brothers and sisters. Read part two HERE.]

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About Nat Russo

Nat Russo is the Amazon #1 Bestselling Fantasy author of Necromancer Awakening and Necromancer Falling. Nat was born in New York, raised in Arizona, and has lived just about everywhere in-between. He’s gone from pizza maker, to radio DJ, to Catholic seminarian (in a Benedictine monastery, of all places), to police officer, to software engineer. His career has taken him from central Texas to central Germany, where he worked as a defense contractor for Northrop Grumman. He's spent most of his adult life developing software, playing video games, running a Cub Scout den, gaining/losing weight, and listening to every kind of music under the sun. Along the way he managed to earn a degree in Philosophy and a black belt in Tang Soo Do. He currently makes his home in central Texas with his wife, teenager, mischievous beagle, and goofy boxador.

Comments 47

    1. Haha, thanks 🙂 It’s just a little fun I try to have every morning. I need to add more to the rotation, though. It’s been a while since I changed things up 🙂

  1. It would seem that there are quite a few humorless types out there. There’s a line from W. Shatner when faced with seriously intent Trekkies even in this day: “Get a *life*”. Perhaps you might try that on the next indignant soul.

    1. Haha! Don’t think I don’t actually internalize that when I see one of those responses 🙂 I take a deep breath and highlight the hashtag instead 🙂

  2. Haha. Some people just don’t understand sarcasm. I think I’ve only caught one of your #horriblewritetips on twitter but I definitely had a giggle. Problem is, I guess that the tone of the message can’t be heard in a tweet… Oh well. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  3. Your writing tips are excellent. Your horrible writing tips are amusing. Tis a shame people do not read the hash tags when they read your posts. Hash tags are there for a reason.

    1. Welcome aboard, Rissa! This article, and the wonderful responses I’ve been getting, has inspired me to expand the rotation of “Horrible” write tips 🙂

  4. I love this post, Nat. It’s fun, but it’s also the truth. People zoom through tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts, multi-tasking and unfocused. I guess we have to keep it simple…or ignore the weird feedback.

  5. DO NOT STOP! This is brilliant! Mind if we add to the fun with some horrible writing tips of our own?

    The fact that people responded the way they did should only fuel your fire. You know you’re getting somewhere with your writing and tweeting if you’re pissing people off. I’m inspired!

  6. Hahahahahahaha! Oh you! Nat Russo, on so many levels I appreciate your sense of humor. It’s not just hashtag blindness that creates problems it’s sarcastic-deafness as well. I can’t tell you how many times people have taken me seriously and tried to correct something I said… to my face. Hashtag-SoAnnoying. 😉

    1. I thank the powers-that-be every day that I didn’t go with my first plan: tweet with no hashtag whatsoever 🙂

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! The responses I’ve been getting to this article inspired me to add a few more “horrible” tips to the rotation. If people keep laughing, I’ll keep tweeting them!

  7. I’m such a newbie that I have to admit that, at first, my brows flew to my hairline whenever I read your Horrible Tips. But the hash tag was there so I caught up in no time and am looking forward to reading more. Keep it up, Nat!

    1. Thanks, Maria! I think in some ways we’re all newbies at this social media thing. In truth, two years ago I didn’t know what a hashtag was 🙂

  8. Nat, your genuine writing tips are fantastic. The idea of horrible writing tips is doubly so! Please do not ever stop. Your posts on FB put a smile on my face nearly every day and your good tips really do influence the way I think about my writing. Alas as I have not managed to get my head around the whole twitter thing yet I have not yet encountered your horrible writing tips but when you mentioned them a couple of days ago on FB the thought had me laughing out loud. Some people need to remove their heads from their posteriors once in a while, even if it is only to look at the hashtags! How about a weekly FB post with a condensed “horrible writing” post for us tweetless souls?

    1. Thanks so much, Nick! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support on Facebook.

      I’ve only been using Twitter regularly for about a year. It’s a wonderful “platform builder” for writers if you can eventually wrap your head around it. I wrote a series here on the blog to help writers come to grips with it. It was sort of a “lessons learned” series. The series is titled “Using Twitter Effectively”. If you’re interested, click the “Series Articles” link up top and you’ll find it there.

      We need good folks like you on Twitter! 🙂

  9. hashtags have one problem: they often are not understood… the # In front of the word makes it kind of alien, and strange… and as they often are highlightened in the same style of a link, they are overseen… because almost nobody would read a link URL without an explanation what is hidden behind the link.

    1. An excellent point. I think that will be less and less of an issue as time goes by. You can hardly watch a television program these days without seeing a hashtag at the bottom of the screen.

  10. I howled at your bad writing tips, especially the Shatner comma. Hilarious! Too bad some people didn’t see the humour. I thought it was obvious that you were being sarcastic. The hashtag was a give away. hehe

    I loved it because I have my struggles with the misplaced comma. I hope you don’t abandon your #HorribleWriteTip.

  11. Misunderstandings on Twitter are common. In part they’re caused by the brevity of the message (140 characters invite misunderstandings), in part by the speed (people only glance at most tweets, and often react without reading) and in part, I fear, by human stupidity.
    Since the hashtag #horriblewritingtips isn’t enough, perhaps you could add “:-D” or “;-)” or “:-p”? I find they help avoid a lot of misunderstandings. Even people who can’t be bothered to read all 140 characters tend to see the ;-). Often, they even understand it. 😀

  12. Pingback: Hashtag Blindness Part 2

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  14. I think common sense would alert people that the tweet was for humor. Sadly, common sense isn’t so common anymore. Also, as Rayne said, add a smiley or even just (hahaha), maybe that would be seen. Or, put the hashtag at the start?

    I’m going to check out Part2 now…
    Thanks for the smiles, Nat! Keep them coming, and don’t be surprised if I comment a tweet of my own humor in response.
    — John

    1. Post
  15. Look what you’ve done!

    In all seriousness, though, twitter is a bit strange and not at all intuitive for newer users. I’m still discovering new things about it, so it’s not surprising that many folks don’t know what hashtags are and so on. I know I pieced it together by context.

    1. Post

      Twitter can definitely be a lot to wrap your head around at first. I created my account back in 2008, but it went mostly unused until 2011/2012 because I just really didn’t understand it. It took a lot of concentrated effort to finally get the hang of it!

      That’s one of the reasons I never call anybody out on this type of thing. I’d say most of the time it’s just an honest mistake. Humorous, but honest. 🙂

  16. Pingback: Hashtag Blindness 3: Electric Jamboree - A Writer's Journey

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