@#&*~!) What’s with these symbols on Twitter?

If you’re new to Twitter and trying to follow our book club reading of de Kooning: An American Master, these basic definitions might help.

The @ symbol
Use this in front of someone’s Twitter name when you’re giving them credit (retweeting something they originally wrote) or responding to something they tweeted. Twitter adds a hyperlink to the name following the @ symbol. You can click on the name to see more about that person and read their tweets.

For example, here is a tweet of mine from this morning:

@cara19 @vmartinart No, #dekooning sure isn’t a “tub book”!
(I was responding to a couple of tweets between @cara19 and @vmartinart)

When you use the @ symbol in front of someone’s Twitter name, this tweet appears in a column called “@Replies” on that person’s Twitter page. They’ll be able to see who has responded to their tweet, retweeted what they said, or joined in the conversation.

Which brings me to . . .

Kim Shields
Image ©Kim Shields, San Jose Mission Courtyard

The # (hashtag) symbol
I’m going to simplify this definition as best I can. It’s direct from the Alyson Dictionary (I made it up as this is how I understand it).

When you have a group on Twitter that is tweeting about the same thing, the leader of that group designates a specific word (or series of letters and numbers) to use on Twitter. The leader then tells everyone in the group to use this word–preceded by the hashtag–when discussing the subject on Twitter.

This streamlines the conversation. How? Because it makes it easily searchable. If everyone was using a different word or making up their own, the group members would have to conduct multiple searches and guess the possibilities.

Here’s the clincher: The word after the hashtag must be written exactly as described (although capitalization doesn’t seem to make a difference). No spaces!

I, as the leader of the de Kooning book club, designated that our hashtag is #dekooning. I did so in this blog post and in subsequent tweets.

You can go to Twitter Search and type in #dekooning and follow our conversation.

Send to Kindle

9 comments to @#&*~!) What’s with these symbols on Twitter?

  • Thanks, Alyson. I’ve been groping my way around Twitter, and have read a number of articles explaining what’s what. Yours is the first that actually addresses two of my main sources of confusion (# and @) and how to use them. And I understood it!

  • Barbara Muir

    I’m going to have to print this one out Alyson, because I don’t think I can remember these instructions. Thanks so much for explaining.

    Take care,


  • becky nielsen

    I knew some of this, (not saying “I already know that!), but this has clarified how to go about searching things more easily. Very helpful! Thanks.

  • Great explanations of these symbols. Sent it to my hubby who is just starting to Twitter about his condo managemnt biz.

  • Barbara, Barbara, Becky, and Joan: I’m glad you found this helpful. Some things we just take for granted if we’ve been using something for awhile. I remember the “geek conference” I attended last fall when everyone was introducing themselves by their Twitter names: “Hi, I’m @abstanfield.” Wigged me out. Then, we were given a hashtag to use so we could tweet about each presentation. That was the first I’d ever heard of hashtags. I was a fish out of water.

  • Wow!That was helpful!

  • Great! Now you can explain how to use Tweetdeck to us.

  • Susan: Okay, I’ll try to work up a TweetDeck post. Would love to know what kind of questions you have about it. I don’t consider myself an expert using it–just kind of mulling my way around it.

  • I have had a twitter account, however I really did not know how to use it….just read tweets. You have explained it wonderfully.