How to Decode Twitter Bios

Twitter bios are becoming more complicated and harder to understand, thanks to all the hashtags, code words, acronyms, and phrases people use to describe their background in 160 characters. Here’s a handy guide to help you understand what people mean by what they say.

Writer: I wrote a blog post once. Somewhere.Fake Ernest Hemingway Twitter account bio

Health & Fitness Enthusiast: Soy-milk drinking, vegetarian-eating “foodie” who will take pictures of my “food” and share it to brag about how “yummy” it is.

Health & Fitness Nut: Health and fitness enthusiast, but I’m a jerk about it.

Living the Dream: I will pester the shit out of you about buying my MLM program.

MLM: I’m new to the whole multi-level marketing and Twitter thing, and still believe you’ll be interested in it when I put it in my bio. I haven’t learned to say “Living the Dream” yet.

Network Marketer: Sounds fancier than MLMer, but it means the same thing. It impressed my friends at my high school reunion though.

Affiliate Marketer: Former MLM marketer. I didn’t know that stuff could be so hard.

Passionate about: Take your pick. I have a) misguided priorities; b) no family; c) no life; d) no idea what “passionate” actually means. (hat tip to @Ed for this one.)

Foodie: I have an iPhone and a Tumblr account. I take pictures of my restaurant food.

Social Media Consultant: I play on Twitter and Facebook. I buy Groupons. I’m also a Writer.

(Any motivational quote): I believe the Successories posters.

Tweets Are My Own Opinion: My company is run by fearful lawyers who think that my every tweet is being pored over by the national media.

Conservative/Liberal: It’s about to get insufferable in here. Mute me during the entire presidential campaign year.

Life Coach: I got laid off last year.

(Uses special characters and dingbats): Hey everyone, look at me! I’m creative!

Location: The Universe/Everywhere/Someplace not real: Location: My mom’s basement.

Christ Follower: Oh yeah, you’re going to Hell.

Actor/Singer/Dancer: I want to be an actor/singer/dancer.

YOLO: I’m 18 and my parents aren’t on Twitter.

Loves to party: See YOLO.

(Bio written in third person): He has a manager to deal with this stuff. No really. His name? Uh, his name is Johnny, uh. . . Keyboard. Yeah, Johnny Keyboard.

#TeamFollowBack/I Follow Back: I’m soooo lonelyyyyy!

#Uses #Lots #Of #Hashtags: I read somewhere that hashtags are important. So I hashtag every word in my bio, even though it never ever shows up on #hashtag #searches.

Five Social Media Jokes That Make Me Want to Poke You In The Eye

Please stop making these social media jokes

Some days, I believe anyone can make up their own clever jokes and make the world laugh.

Other days, I weep for humanity.

Humor is a dangerous thing in the hands of people who don’t know what they’re doing. And apparently, that’s a lot of people, especially when it comes to making jokes about current events.

They deliver the line — which, believe me, I’ve heard hundreds of times before — with an expectant grin like they’ve said something hysterical, and they’re waiting for me to laugh.

(Pro tip: If you tell a joke, never use the “TA DA!” face, like you’re pleased with yourself, or are in a recorded-in-front-of-a-live-studio-audience sitcom. Act like what you said was not a joke, so that when it bombs, you can continue on like nothing awkward just happened.)

So if you’re making these social media jokes, stop it. Just stop it.

  • Twitterererer: Said with a confused look on the person’s face, like they don’t quite get it or aren’t really sure what to call people who use Twitter. They act like they’re so unfamiliar with the word — even after three solid years of it being a pop culture mainstay even the Amish are aware of — they’re not sure how many “er” syllables there actually are. They’ll go on for five minutes if you let them. Because nothing is funnier than feigned confusion and stupidity.
  • Calling Twitter Users “Twits”: “But people who use social media aren’t actually called. . . oooh, I get it. Ha ha ha, that’s so FUNNY! ‘Twit’ is a name for a stupid person, and you’re saying people who use Twitter are stupid.” Whatever. People who say this think “working hard or hardly working?” is also funny.
  • Saying “Hashtag-__________” in regular conversation: As in hashtag-that’s-funny or hashtag-hilarious. Seriously, hashtag-shut-the-hell-up. I hate it when people use text speak in real life (although I really do like The Instagram Song, below), and I say “O! M! G!” only when I want to make fun of someone for doing it.
  • “Smart phone? No, I just have a regular old dumb phone.”: When people say this, I want to say something I learned in my years of woodworking: “There are no bad tools, only bad carpenters.”
  • “I don’t want to know when people are going to the bathroom:” I don’t know what kind of people you hang out with, but no one I know ever discusses their bathroom habits in polite conversation, let alone broadcasts it to the entire Internet. Maybe you need to hang out with a better class of people. Also, I don’t think anyone anywhere has ever said this ever. But if you think they have, by all means, show me. Dive into the social media deep end, find a tweet where someone said they just went poo, print it out, and show it to me.


Yet Another Serial Plagiarist Busted by Google

March is International Serial Plagiarist Month, apparently. Because it’s the month that I discovered my humor columns being ripped off by, not one, but two newspaper editors in North America.

Yesterday morning, I received an email from humor columnist, George Waters, who said that we, plus 12 other humor writers, had been ripped off by Steve Jeffrey, publisher of The Anchor in Chestermere, Alberta, Canada, in 42 columns out of the last 52 weeks.

Not just a line here or there, or one of the funnier jokes. He did a complete copy-and-paste job, made some edits to give it a local flavor, and then published it under his name.

(You can read a very thorough writeup of the plagiarism situation by Andrew Beaujon of The Poynter Institute, a journalism school in Florida.)

Bicycle thieves and Dutch police

If only plagiarists were this easy to catch.

Earlier this month, Jon Flatland of the Blooming Prairie (Minn.) Times was found to have been plagiarizing humor columns and blogs from several humor writers, possibly as far back as 15 – 18 years ago. He resigned in disgrace, and his publisher notified the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation and another writer notified the North Dakota Newspaper Association about his plagiarism. He’ll never work in newspapers again.

And 25 days later I get another email that I have been stolen from yet again, but I was only ripped off twice. Fellow humorist Sheila Moss had 24 columns lifted.

How do we know? Because Waters copied every single column published under Steve Jeffrey’s name from the last 52 weeks — the online archives for anything beyond that were not available — and Googled unique phrases from each and every piece, and found columns that were written beforehand by someone else. That’s how he found me and three Canadians, eight Americans, and one Australian. I’ve also used Google Cache to find copies of my columns in The Anchor’s PDF newspapers. (Note: Just because you delete something from your website doesn’t mean it’s gone; Google saves this in their cache for weeks and even months.)

But that didn’t stop Jeffrey from expressing bewilderment at the accusation that 80% of his columns were found to be nearly identical to columns by other people. According to Beaujon’s article:

Reached by telephone in Alberta, where he said he was about to travel to British Columbia for two weeks, Jeffrey seemed baffled by Waters’ allegations. His column, he told me, doesn’t even touch on comedy. “I don’t write humor, and I don’t blog,” he said. “I write a ‘Lighthouse’ column, but ‘Lighthouse’ is about local politics.”

Well, the Lighthouse columns I read from August 25, 2011 and October 13, 2011 looked an awful lot like mine, with a few details changed. One is from 2003 about the three hours I worked as a telemarketer in college, and the other was an open letter to a fictitious fellow traveler to Boston. In 18 years, I have never written about local Canadian politics.

God Save Me From Newspaper Editors

As blogging has grown in popularity, bloggers have been increasingly under attack by the media. Bobby King, president of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, once called us the animals in the blogosphere. And yet, it’s not the bloggers, but the highly trained professional newspaper people that have stolen from me.

Three times.

In all the years that I’ve been a humor writer, I’ve had my work stolen by three different newspaper editors. (I discovered my work being lifted back in the early 2000s by an assistant editor of a weekly paper in Ontario.)

That means Canada leads the U.S. in theft of my work, 2 to 1.

But I have never found a legitimate, serious blogger stealing anything of mine. (That’s not to say it hasn’t happened, but I’ve never found it.)

What’s most frustrating about this is that I’ve been writing my newspaper column for little to no pay for all these years, publishing it in 10 different newspapers around Indiana, and in The American Reporter online. I do this because I love writing, and I love making people laugh. Humor writing has never been about the money. I’ve tried self-syndicating, but found very few takers. “We don’t have the budget,” is the frequent answer. So I gave up trying to earn money from it, and just do it because I love it.

So it frosts me when editors — bearers of journalistic ethics and integrity — profit dishonestly from my work. They collect salaries, they collect advertising revenue, and they make their living by stealing something they weren’t willing to pay me for.

I still consider journalism to be a noble profession, and I still think editors play a vital role in informing the public. I won’t paint all editors with the same overgeneralizing brush that people like Bobby King have painted my profession. Hell, I got my “professional” writing start thanks to one newspaper editor in northern Indiana who took a chance on me 18 years ago, so I am forever grateful to editors as a whole.

But I’m also getting sick of media professionals decrying the state of the blogging industry, when it’s their brethren who keep stealing my stuff. If you want to talk about “the animals in the blogosphere,” let’s first have a conversation about “the thieves in the editors’ offices.”

Otherwise, get your own house in order before you attack mine.

And quit stealing my stuff.

Fallout from Steve Jeffrey’s Serial Plagiarism

Here’s what has happened since the theft was first discovered:

All archives from The Anchor’s website were removed immediately after the story, as have all of their PDF versions from

I’ve been in touch with the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association and I launched an official complaint with the Alberta Press Council. I don’t know what results those will bring, but hopefully we’ll see some sort of investigation and resolution.

UPDATE: According to an article in the Calgary Herald (“Calgary-area newspaper editor resigns following plagiarism allegations”, Steve Jeffrey resigned his position as publisher of The Anchor today (Tuesday). According to the article,

“I really don’t have any way to defend myself. I did use articles for inspiration, but thought that I had changed the content enough to comply,” (Jeffrey) said in an e-mail to the Herald.

Ripped Off Columnists

All links point to at least one stolen newspaper column or blog:

Stories about Steve Jeffrey’s serial plagiarism:

Because I believe in thoroughness and the power of search engine optimization, you can also read stories about Steve Jeffrey’s serial plagiarism at these blogs and newspapers:


Photo credit: welcome2bo (Flickr)

A Humor Writing Secret – Let People Make the Connection

People say humor writing is hard. It’s not that hard. Not if you know the formula.

Yes, there are actually steps you can follow to write humor.

(Now, writing humor well is another topic entirely. For that, you’ll need years of practice spent studying humor and language.)

Humor is based on a number of different things that all have to happen at the same time, chief among them is letting people make the connection in their own brains (there’s also Recognition and Surprise, but we’ll discuss those later). If the reader can make that connection on there own, something is funny. If they don’t make it, because they’re unfamiliar with the topic, the joke dies, and you lose the laugh.

This is why you should never explain jokes or repeat them. The connection, and the surprise that comes with it, are gone, and so is the opportunity to laugh.

Here’s an example:

If you watch Family Guy, you’ll get this, and it should have made you at least chuckle. If you don’t, you don’t know who this is, and you’ll never get the joke.

So for you Family Guy viewers, why was it funny? Because a few things all happened at the same time:

  1. You recognized the character Bruce from Family Guy. You know what his catchphrase, and you know how he sounds. (Recognition)
  2. You read the text, and seeing “Oh no” triggered his voice in your head. (Connection)
  3. As you read the rest of the text, you realized you did exactly what it says. (Surprise)

If those three things happened — all at once, mind you — the joke scores and you laughed. But if you didn’t recognize Bruce, or you don’t know what he sounds like, or you’ve already seen this before, there’s no laugh.

To make a joke score, whether you’re telling it or writing it, you need to let people make a connection in their own minds.

Seeking Guest Designers and Guest Programmers

I’ve been enjoying being a guest blogger for a couple of years now. I don’t do it that often, but just recently joined Dan Schawbel’s Personal Branding blog as a contributing writer, and have written for Doug Karr’sMarketing Tech blog a couple of times. (I even started my career as a writer by writing a guest column for my friend Joel in our college newspaper.)

Really old computer about the size of a pipe organ with people or sitting or standing around it.

Can you work a computer? Then, oh boy, have we got an opportunity for you?!

In fact, I like the guest blogger program so much, I think we’re going to take it that next logical step forward, and invite people to be guest web designers and guest programmers for our Professional Blog Service website.

Think about it. As a guest blogger, I get to write a weekly blog post about whatever topic I want, as long as it falls within the editorial direction and guidelines of the host blog. People see my name, I get some backlinks to my own site, and I get to promote my own efforts, like my own personal branding book, Branding Yourself (affiliate link).

Our guest designers and guest programmers will get to feature their own work on our blog, where it can be seen by all of our visitors, who will ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ appropriately, marveling at the cleverness of your work and your skill. You’ll get viewers and consumers of your work, which could lead to some exciting new opportunities for you! Plus, we’ll create a backlink to your website on one of our blog posts. (Maybe the one about social media strategies for soil conservationists.)

While you are free to create or design anything, our goal is to specifically find guest providers who can:

  • Help us get the Agency theme working on the Genesis framework.
  • Write a WordPress plugin that will properly sync my speaking calendar to a sidebar Google calendar. (I can’t get any of the other ones to do it the way I want.)
  • Write a cool mobile app that lists all independent coffee shops in U.S. Sort of like the Starbucks app, but for indie shops. (Android only; you can create an iPhone version for yourself later.)

You know, simple stuff. However, unlike guest bloggers who don’t get anything, guest designers and programmers will get, I don’t know, a pound of coffee or a case of Mountain Dew. You guys like that caffeinated stuff, right?

So, if you’re as excited about this amazing opportunity as I am (if that’s possible), please leave us a comment and let us know what you would like to contribute.

The preceding was meant to be a feeble stab at humor, and not an actual call for designers or programmers. It’s also not a veiled slam against guest blogging, which I think is very valuable for bloggers. I was just in a weird mood this morning.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

Photo credit: National Museum of American History (Flickr)

3 Secrets of Creating Effective and SAFE Humor for Your Writing

I’ve been writing newspaper humor columns for over 17 years.

And I can tell you one of the hardest things to do is to be funny week after week. So hard that I can’t always do it. In fact, I slacked off for six months in 1998, but apparently no one noticed.

Sarah Schaefer at 92Y Tribeca Comedy Festival

Sarah Schaefer at 92Y Tribeca Comedy Festival

But I have learned a few secrets about writing humor over the years, based on how humor itself works. These aren’t just the “rule of three” or “end words in a hard K” tricks, but the psychological motivation of humor. If you can learn how to write jokes using these secrets, you can start safely adding humor to your blogs, your articles, or your presentations.

(I have to give special thanks to my dad, Dr. Lambert Deckers, a psychology professor who studied the motivation of humor for a number of years, and Dick Wolfsie, fellow humor writer and features reporter for WISH-TV, for teaching me all of this. I totally stole all of this information from them.)

Humor Rule #1: All Humor is Based on a Surprise

The Purdue University linguist Victor Raskin wrote that all humor is based on a surprise, or a lie. That is, comedians lie to us by setting us up with one premise, and then lie to us (or surprise us) with the punchline. The laugh comes from the surprise.

Here’s an example: writer Dorothy Parker once famously said, “If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”

Did you see it? As you started reading Parker’s line, by the time you got to “laid end to end,” your mind already started thinking about what was going to come next, like a measurement of distance: “they would stretch across campus” or something similar. But she surprised us by instead questioning the moral virtue of the girls who attended the Yale prom. And that’s where the laugh came from.

This type of sentence is called a paraprosdokian, which is from the Greek meaning “expectation.”

However, not all surprises are paraprosdokian in nature. There are times when endings are just unexpected, but didn’t require a single sentence to get there. Most punchlines to jokes are surprises, which is what makes them humorous.

If you want to add a joke to your posts, throw in a surprise thought or two, almost as a parenthetical statement, at the end of a paragraph where a punchline would typically sit.

Humor Rule #2: Good Humor is Based on Recognition

Writing a punchline that requires previous knowledge of the source material is a great way to get a laugh. If the audience is already familiar with the source of a punchline, the reason behind it, the source it references, or if it’s something they’ve experienced before, you’ll get a laugh. For example, telling computer jokes to a bunch of IT geeks will get a laugh, but telling the same joke to a bunch of fashion models won’t. The way Dick Wolfsie explained it, the reader feels like they’re in on the joke, which makes them feel good, and they laugh.

Inigo Montoya #LessIconicMovieLines quote - Hello, my name is Iñigo Montoya. You grilled my bratwurst. Prepare some fries.

I can't help it, I was REALLY proud of this one.

Here’s an example: As I was writing this post, my friend Rhett Cochran started the #LessIconicMovieLines meme on Twitter. Several of us threw out suggestions based on memorable movie lines. The movie lines that did the best were fairly popular ones — you couldn’t use lines from a movie no one had seen, like Ishtar — and they were surprising enough to be funny.

This is also why “callbacks” work so well: they “call back” to something that was said earlier. A lot of standup comics use callbacks during their act. When the audience recognizes the joke, and remembers where it came from, they feel like they were in on it, and the joke scores.

A lot of character-driven sitcoms rely on recognition for their humor. You get to know their characters, their foibles, their tendencies, their likes and dislikes. Then, whenever they’re placed in a particular situation that draws on one of those facets, it’s funny. But when a different character is placed into the same situation, it won’t be funny.

Recognition is also why jokes often fall flat, especially when you tell inside jokes to someone who wasn’t there. If you have to say “I guess you had to be there,” that’s a good indication the joke won’t be funny.

Humor Rule #3: Humor is Based on Making the Reader Feeling Superior. Good Humor is Self-Deprecating

Making a reader feel superior is another key to humor. Basically, if I feel smarter, better, prettier, richer, or more successful than the subject of the joke, the joke scores. It can often piggy-back off Recognition. That is, if I understand the inside joke or the callback, then I feel smarter, like I’m in on something special, and I’ll laugh.

However, this is where a lot of humor can be dangerous, and I urge you to use it carefully. It’s why people are told to avoid using humor at all. People love to make jokes at someone else’s expense, and end up offending somebody (or a whole lot of somebodies). It’s one thing to make a joke about a single person, but then it becomes tempting to make a joke about a group of people — computer geeks, people from a neighboring state — which can then turn into jokes about race, disability, size, etc., which then creates all kinds of problems.

To safely follow this rule, never, ever make a joke at someone else’s expense, because it will promptly backfire. Don’t think it won’t happen? Think back carefully to that one awful cringe moment in your life where you made a joke about a friend, only to discover that the punchline was related to some childhood condition, sensitive subject they’re in counseling about, or the tragic death of a loved one. (Congratulations if you only have one of those.)

In essence, if your humor has to rely on someone else feeling bad, then don’t do it.

There is one exception where it’s okay to violate this rule: if you make fun of yourself, you are completely safe. By making fun of yourself, the authority, you’re making the audience feel superior to you. I used this in the last sentence of the first paragraph, “In fact, I slacked off for six months in 1998, but apparently no one noticed.”

This is a great trick used by public speakers. By being up on stage, speaking to the audience from a position of authority, they are in the power position. So good speakers will make fun of themselves, which makes the audience feel like they’re superior to the speaker, and the joke scores.

There are several other humor secrets you can use, like exaggeration, being outrageous, or absurd, that can also make your writing or speaking funny.

In a future post, I’ll discuss how to string a few small jokes together to make your next presentation or blog post rock.

At least from a humor perspective. If you suck at speaking, I can’t help you.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

Photo credit: Sarah Schaefer, 92YTribeca (Flickr)
Twitter screenshot: Erik Deckers