Facebook’s Open Graph is the path which third-party services take to share “stories,” or recent actions, onto a user’s timeline. These stories traditionally follow a very limited sentence structure (Name + Verb + Thing + App), but now Facebook is launching Flexible Sentences, a new feature which will allow developers to customize the syntax of stories that lack context and/or read awkwardly in the original sentence structure.

As detailed in Facebook’s own example, a story from concert-finding app Songkick would originally be worded as “Tom tracked Muse on Songkick.com.” Now, that story will soon be updated to something along the lines of “Tom tracked Muse to get concert alerts via Songkick.com.” It’s a subtle, but important change that could strongly impact apps whose stories aren’t as easily described as “Tom listened to X on Y” or “Tom read X on Y.”

flex sent before2 Facebook now lets apps add more context to Open Graph stories via Flexible Sentences

Before

flex sent after2 Facebook now lets apps add more context to Open Graph stories via Flexible Sentences

After

Facebook developer Jiangbo Miao has clarified that a majority of stories “will continue to be worded properly without needing to use Flexible Sentences,” and that app developers looking to utilize Flexible Sentences will need to resubmit their actions for approval via the App Dashboard.

Facebook has shared a list of best practices, encouraging developers to keep things simple by avoiding unnecessary words, refraining from editing when it’s not necessary and separating data models from language.

  • Not all sentences require editing. Most sentences will be worded properly without any need for additional editing. However, there will be cases where it’s necessary to customize sentences since human languages are complicated.
  • Separate the data model from language. You will want to model your actions and objects cleanly, independent of how they will be represented on Facebook in the correct user-facing language.
  • Structure your verbs and objects cleanly to begin with. Avoid unnecessary words in your verb, such as “hiked to”.

➤ Flexible Sentences

Facebook’s developer-focused arm has kept itself quite busy as of late, having recently introduced new marketing tools, a developer alert service, and the ability to connect apps with pages.

Image credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images.