The dizzying speed at which technology has been evolving often leaves those of us entrenched in the world of crediting sources and editing reference lists running to keep up. We have standard citation formats for Web sites (§3.15), publish ahead of print articles (§3.15.1), and e-reader content (Tweet on January 31, 2011). Those of us who edit scientific content do not regularly (if ever) come across a citation to Twitter. That does not mean, however, that Twitter does not offer anything useful to science writers and editors. Government agencies, scientific journals, researchers, and others involved in publishing Tweet constantly.
How, then, should one cite a Tweet? In deciding AMA style position on this, we first had to resolve whether Twitter constituted a standard citable source or was more in the realm of “personal communications” (such as e-mail). We agreed that Twitter does belong in the citations list because it’s in the public domain, anyone can follow the Tweets of a journal or agency, and the individual posts are maintained by date with a lasting link. In addition, the US Library of Congress is to begin archiving all public Tweets, ensuring their searchability and permanence (http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2010/10-081.html).
The second decision we had to make was what should be included in the citation. Our final Twitter citation style is based on that of a regular Web site reference:
1. @AMAManual. Many now accept “data” as singular. However, JAMA & Archives Journals retain the use of the plural verb with “data.” http://t.co/auYSgGb. http://twitter.com/#!/AMAManual/status/94117252009431040. Posted July 21, 2011.
2. @AMAManual. Style update! “CI” no longer requires expansion at first mention in AMA Style. So, 95% CI instead of 95% confidence interval (CI). http://twitter.com/#!/AMAManual/status/96287318616440833. Posted July 27, 2011.
In the first position is the author, in this case the “handle” or username on Twitter (@AMAManual). Then follows the full Tweet, the URL of that post (found by clicking on the date stamp), and finally the date of posting.
For those writing and editing in the social and behavioral sciences, the APA style blog also has addressed the citation of Twitter (http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2009/10/how-to-cite-twitter-and-facebook-part-ii.html).
We hope this can help avoid citations sounding like a cacophony of Angry Birds.—Stacy L. Christiansen, MA