How do I cite a Twitter thread or conversation in my text and in my works-cited list?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
A thread is a series of separately written but related tweets that are given a single URL. If you’re discussing the thread as a whole (rather than simply quoting an individual tweet in the thread), treat the thread as a collaborative work. As always, follow the MLA format template.
Follow the guidelines in the MLA Handbook: list the Twitter handles of the original tweet’s author and of any participants in the thread. Include real names, if known, in parentheses. If more than two people are involved, use “et al.”
@poniewozik (James Poniewozik) et al. “I’ve joked that ‘TV critic’ and ‘Netflix critic’ should maybe become separate jobs, but maybe it’s not a joke?” Twitter, 2 Mar. 2018, twitter.com/poniewozik/status/
Title of Source
Tweets lack formal titles. Most tweets begin with text and can be treated much like untitled poems, where the first line stands in for the title. Some tweets are composed only of images; as for any work in MLA style that lacks a title, you should thus substitute a description.
For Twitter threads, use the initial tweet in the thread as the basis for your title or description. Keep these three methods in mind as you determine what to list in the “Title of source” slot for a Twitter thread:
Short Tweets with Text
For a tweet under 140 characters, the MLA Handbook recommends listing the full text of the tweet as the title, as in the example above.
Long Tweets with Text
You can also truncate the titles of tweets—especially those that have over 140 characters or that include emojis—by using an ellipsis at the end:
@ClintSmithIII (Clint Smith) et al. “Today is Frederick Douglass’ 200th Birthday. . . .” Twitter, 14 Feb. 2018, twitter.com/ClintSmithIII/status/
Tweets with No Text
For a tweet composed exclusively of images or video, describe the tweet in your own words:
@pronounced_ing (Celeste Ng) et al. Photo of letter from Shirley Jackson. Twitter, 22 Jan. 2018, twitter.com/pronounced_ing/status/
Title of Container, Date, and Location
When you are citing a thread, list Twitter as the title of the container, the date of the thread (or a date range if the thread continues over more than one day), and the URL:
@colsonwhitehead (Colson Whitehead) et al. “Do I have to google the meaning of ‘neo-liberal,’ like I did ‘Ed Hardy’ and ‘One Direction,’ or can I just wait it out?” Twitter, 18 Dec. 2017, twitter.com/colsonwhitehead/
As always, key your in-text citation to the first element of your works-cited-list entry:
Responses to Colson Whitehead’s snark-laden tweet on the term neoliberal were, by turns, funny, informational, dismissive of the term, and insistent on the term’s importance (@colsonwhitehead et al.).