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How To Cite a Tweet


Citing sources can be a difficult process for any author. There are numerous style guides to adhere to, a wide variety of source types (books, journals, magazines, video, etc.), and nuance to where a citation should be placed in relation to the quotes or paraphrased content. This guide can help with one type of content: citing a tweet.

What is plagiarism?

To understand the concept behind how to cite a tweet, you should first gain a full understanding of what plagiarism is. Simply put, plagiarism is using another person's words or ideas without giving them credit for it. The medium of the source material doesn't matter: a plot from a novel, a Facebook post, a tweet, a journal article, or a letter written to someone, for example. If you didn't create it, then you must cite the source.

Aren't tweets public?

The entrance of social media into our everyday lives has opened up questions about what is public domain and what is still considered intellectual property. It may be tempting to include a tweet's content in our work as a passing or fleeting thought, but tweets can still be composed of the Twitter account owner's own thoughts and ideas, which means they still need to be cited. According to the Copyright Alliance, A tweet is protected by copyright if certain criteria are satisfied, including that the content must be original to its author and the tweet must contain something more than simply a name, single word, or short phrase. Give credit where it's due! Technology may change, but the idea of giving people credit for their work is perpetual.

Tweets in academia and research

At first glance, using tweets in academic papers or in research papers may seem a bit strange or too basic for higher-thought writing. However, much information in these modern times is made public first on Twitter. In just 280 characters (or longer threaded tweets), major news stories, research, and other information have been seen around the world in seconds through the platform's wide reach. It can be a valuable source.

Intro to style guides

So how do you go about adding a citation for a tweet to your document? The answer is: it depends. Your industry or school will determine how you cite the tweet in your work. Style guides are, ultimately, designed to ensure that the right information is highlighted for that industry. For example, the Chicago Manual of Style, or CMOS as it is commonly referred to, has the option of using the author-date style of in-text citations. Since CMOS is used prevalently in historical journals and anthropological journals, having the date and author is of significant importance to readers. The major style guides are now available online, and most have a free version available for students and teachers.

Here, we will show how to cite a tweet in the five major style guides.

American Psychological Association (APA)

One of the most popular style guides out there, APA is focused on simplicity and clarity. According to their website, APA style is used by writers in many disciplines around the world for concise, powerful, and persuasive scholarly communication. APA uses in-text citations with a list of references at the end of the document.

To cite a tweet in APA format in a references list, follow these requirements, as given by the APA in Section 10.15 of the APA Publication Manual, Seventh Edition:

  • Start with the last name and first name initial of the individual or group that wrote the tweet. Add their Twitter handle, including the @ sign, in brackets.
  • If the author is a group like the NOAA (@noaagov), for example, use the group name that is shown on the work (in this example, use NOAA).
  • Include the specific full date of the post, year first, then month, then day.
  • For the title, use the first 20 words of the tweet, in italics. A URL, hashtag, or emoji should all be included as one word each.
  • Note any included images, videos, etc. in brackets after the title, as: [Image attached], [Video attached].
  • Include [Tweet] after the title and any image notations.
  • Add Twitter as the site name and then provide a URL to the tweet.


Doolittle, E. [@moveyourbloomin]. (2020, March 15). Went to the horse races today and met some interesting peeps. Cheered for my horse, but lost. [Image attached][Tweet]. Twitter.

Modern Language Association (MLA)

The MLA is a key standard in academia. According to their website, MLA style is a set of standards for writing and documentation used by writers to find and evaluate information, alert their audience to the trustworthiness of their findings through citation, and shape the expression of their ideas in conversation with others.

To cite a tweet in MLA style, include the Twitter handle, the whole tweet, the date and time of the tweet, the date you accessed it (if it's relevant), and the URL of the tweet.


@moveyourbloomin. "Met a guy today while selling flowers. He was rude, but I wasn't rude back. I'm a good girl, I am." Twitter, 10 Feb. 2020, 10:02 p.m.,

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)

Currently on its 17th edition, CMOS is one of the most-used style guides in the world. To cite a tweet in Chicago style, include the following:

  • Author's real name or group name
  • Twitter handle (use this as the author's name if their handle is all you have)
  • Up to the first 160 characters of the tweet, including spaces. Keep the capitalization as it is in the tweet.
  • Indicate that it's from Twitter.
  • The month, day, and year the tweet was posted, and include the time if needed to distinguish it from another tweet.
  • The URL of the tweet.


Doolittle, Eliza (@moveyourbloomin). "Got invited to a ball today! Can u believe it? I'll be with royalty! omg what will I wear?? I wonder if Henry will dance with me…" Twitter, March 20, 2020, 1:00 p.m.


Turabian style follows closely with Chicago style formatting. Kate L. Turabian was the graduate school dissertation secretary at the University of Chicago from 1930 to 1958, and she was the head boss when it came to getting a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation approved. She created strict stylistic rules that followed CMOS, with a few differences. When it comes to citing a tweet, there is just one difference between CMOS and Turabian: instead of using parentheses around the twitter handle, use square brackets.


Doolittle, Eliza [@moveyourbloomin]. "Got invited to a ball today! Can u believe it? I'll be with royalty! omg what will I wear?? I wonder if Henry will dance with me…" Twitter, March 20, 2020, 1:00 p.m.


According to IEEEDataPort's citation guidelines, IEEE citation style is used primarily for electronics, engineering, telecommunications, computer science, and information technology reports (p. 1). This genre of publications is prime territory for quoting tweets. There is a significant amount of research going into Twitter bots, natural language processing, data analysis, and more. Citing tweets in this format is becoming increasingly common.

That said, the IEEE hasn't yet provided clear instructions for citing social media posts. Therefore, for Twitter, follow some basic guidelines for including relevant information.

  • Include the author's name and Twitter handle, putting the handle in square brackets.
  • Include the full tweet as the title in quotation marks.
  • Note in italics that the tweet is from Twitter.
  • Show the month, day, and year that the tweet was posted.
  • Include the URL of the tweet, with the month, day and year accessed in parentheses after.


E. Doolittle [@moveyourbloomin], "Everyone thought I was a princess at the ball! I can't believe that I had such a great time dancing the night away. And Henry danced with me too!" Twitter, Apr. 2, 2020. Available: (accessed: Mar. 5, 2022).

Citations and style guides can seem a bit overwhelming, but there are some key sources available online to help you cite tweets properly. Whether you're working with CMOS, APA, MLA, or Turabian, be sure to include all the information you have about the author of the tweet, the date it was posted, and a way for the reader to access that tweet on Twitter.

Don't forget to use in-text citations to avoid plagiarism in your work. Any time you are quoting a tweet, there needs to be a full reference to it in the notes, bibliography, or references list at the end of your document. From jokes to breaking news, tweets can bring valuable information to your academic, technical, historical, or sociological writing.

Header image by itchaznong.

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