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Everything You Need to Know About the @Reply

photo by Steve Snodgrass

Okay, tweeps and future tweeps! So far in my column we’ve covered getting started on Twitter [2], the retweet [3], the #hashtag [4], and basic Twitter etiquette [5]. Today I’m going to go over the ins and outs of another Twitter staple: the @reply, also known as a mention. (Still not sure if this whole Twitter thing is even for you? This post [6] might help you decide.)


First and foremost, what’s that at symbol for? The at symbol (@: read as “at” in common speech) followed by a username is called a “handle,” and it’s how you “tag someone” on Twitter. To do this correctly, you put their username directly after the at symbol with no spaces between, like this: @AnnieNeugebauer [7]. Typing this on Twitter automatically activates that chunk of text as a link that directs you to that user’s profile; it also notifies the user that they’ve been mentioned.

A “reply” is technically when you answer a tweet directed at you by directing one back to that person, using their @handle.

A “mention” is when you “tag” someone in a tweet that isn’t necessarily a reply, also done by using their @handle. (So a reply is also a type of mention.)

How to See Your Mentions

So how do you know when someone is mentioning you? All of your mentions show up under your “notifications” page found at the left of your Twitter screen. Your mentions will be mixed in with notices of favorites, retweets, and new followers. Your mentions will also appear in your main timeline if you’re already following the person who’s mentioned you.

How to Reply to Someone

Let’s say someone mentioned you in a tweet. How do you answer? Beneath the text of their tweet, in smaller font and toward the right, is a list of options that includes “reply,” “retweet,” “favorite,” and “more.” Click on “reply.” A text box will open with their @handle automatically pasted into the beginning. Simply type your response after that (leave one space) and click “tweet.” Your reply will appear in their notifications!

How to Know What Someone Is Replying To

What if you get a reply but you don’t know which tweet they’re answering? At the bottom left corner of their tweet is an option that says “view conversation.” If you click that, it will expand the chain of your tweets, and you can then determine what they were replying to. The only time this won’t work is if the person opened a brand new tweet to answer you instead of clicking “reply,” which is a good reason to always click “reply” when you’re responding to someone (rather than typing their handle in a new box).

How to Mention Someone

What if you want to mention someone – and have them see it – but it’s not in response to a specific tweet? You can insert someone’s @handle in any part of your tweet to have it show up in their notifications.

Public vs. Personal vs. Private Messaging

Here comes the tricky part. Where you put someone’s @handle in your tweet determines who sees said tweet.

An important reminder: Every tweet is technically public in that it’s accessible if someone wants to find it (through your profile). The only way to privately message someone on Twitter is to send them a “direct message,” which can only be sent to people who are already following you. (To do this, go to their profile and click on the gear wheel; DMs are in the dropdown menu.)

DMs aside, how visible do you want your tweet to be? If you really only care that the person you’re mentioning sees your tweet, put their @handle as the very first thing in your tweet. They will see this in their timeline, and so will anyone who happens to be following both of you. Anyone else can see it by going to your profile and clicking “Tweets & replies.”

What if you want all of your followers to see your tweet, even if they aren’t following the other person? You mention will need to be anywhere in the tweet but at the very beginning. In other words, the @handle can be anything but first. Want your tweet to be public but still want to start your sentence with the person’s name? You can add a period before their handle, like so:

.@WriterUnboxed is such a great team to be a part of! Have you checked out their resources lately? http://writerunboxed.com/ [8]

Other Notes

[pullquote]Don’t let your everyday conversations become a type of spam. If a traditional @reply will do, use it. [/pullquote]Everyone who’s mentioned in a tweet, whether a reply or other, will see the tweet in their notification tab. Because of this, it’s discourteous to leave in a person’s @handle who’s no longer involved in the conversation. For example, if @PersonA mentions @PersonB and @PersonC in a tweet, but only @PersonC replies, it’s considerate to stop including their handle if the conversation goes on for more than a tweet or two.

Putting a period in front of someone’s handle – or moving their handle to the middle or end of your tweet – to make the tweet appear in your timeline is a great trick, but use it sparingly. If someone really wants to view ALL of your conversations, they can go to your profile and click on “Tweets & replies.” Otherwise, only “publicize” things that you think your followers might genuinely be interested in. For example, this is obnoxious:

Awesome. :) @handle

As is:

.@handle Awesome!

To avoid annoying your followers, those could both be tweeted as:

@handle Awesome!

In contrast, something like this might actually be of use to your followers:

.@handle Yes, I did finally solve that problem I tweeted about earlier. Here’s the information I found that really helped: (link).

See the difference? Don’t let your everyday conversations become a type of spam. If a traditional @reply will do, use it. Save the mentions for things worthy of public attention.

I think that covers the basics of the @mention! Did I miss something? Are you still confused? Hit me with your burning questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. You can also always ask me things on Twitter @AnnieNeugebauer [7]!

About Annie Neugebauer [9]

Annie Neugebauer is a two-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated author with work appearing and forthcoming in more than a hundred publications, including magazines such as Cemetery Dance, Apex, and Black Static, as well as anthologies such as Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volumes 3 & 4 and #1 Amazon bestsellers Killing It Softly & Fire. She’s a member of the Horror Writers Association and a columnist for Writer Unboxed and LitReactor. She's represented by Alec Shane of Writers House. She lives in Texas with two crazy cute cats and a husband who’s exceptionally well-prepared for the zombie apocalypse. You can visit her at www.AnnieNeugebauer.com for news, poems, organizational tools for writers, and more.