As anyone who followed @MayorRahm and @BronxZoosCobra knows, you can practically write novels on Twitter. Poetry and haiku- it’s a no brainer. The 140-character format just lends itself to these types of expression.

But does it have a use in the formal, even hide-bound world of traditional philanthropy? Funding agencies want brevity, true, but they also want you to follow strict application guidelines and formats. Stray from the instructions and you’re in the trash heap without ever getting read.

When I started using Twitter, I set myself the constraint of never using abbreviations or substitutions. While I’ve strayed from this occasionally, for the most part if I can’t say it in regular English within that parameter, I just didn’t post the comment.  It’s an amazing exercise in really understanding what you’re trying to say. So, as came out in a Twitter chat among fundraising professionals several months ago, why not apply this to fund appeals and grant applications?

Sticking with regular English, of couse, is also a good guideline when formulating grant narratives– watching out for jargon, repetition and excess verbiage is Grantwriting 101. But I took it a step further; I went back into all my templates and tweeted the pitch as the first line. 140 characters to tell that funder my need, impact and benefit to them.

I’m not talking about posting these on Twitter. I simply took the constraint–say what you need to say in 140 characters–and applied it to my case. From there I elaborated, just like any good lead sentence in a paragraph.

What I found was that I was able to make my introductions say what I wanted them to say, in dynamic, compelling language. Give it a try. Sometimes it’s best to say as little as possible.