The punctuation you use in a text matters to millenials

People Don’t Trust You If You Text With This Punctuation Mark, Study Says

Save those periods for your next novel—they’re only making the people you’re text messaging nervous.

Zachary Mack

By Zachary Mack August 24, 2020

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable businessman standing alone in his home office and texting on his cellphone
iStock

You’ve lived through hundreds of agonizing “typing a reply” bubbles. You’ve struggled to make sense of a string of emojis. And you’ve suffered through your fair share of “read” messages without responses. These 21st-century problems all prove that no matter how easy it’s become to communicate, there are still some major issues that text messaging can create. But strangely enough, when it comes to triggering texting behavior, one of the most basic grammatical tools in the English language is what’s setting people off the most. That’s because, according to research, people are less likely to trust you if you use periods in your text messages.

Multiple studies have found that the very basic act of putting a period at the end of your sentences while texting could drastically change the way your recipient reads your message. A 2016 study out of Binghamton University found that “texts that ended with a period were rated as less sincere than those that did not,” and a 2018 study from the same authors concluded that “one-word texts with periods were understood as more negative than responses without.” The latter study also found that “inclusion of the period in text responses may be perceived as abrupt” by recipients.

Teenage Boy Using his Smart Phone while Laying on the Bed
iStock

While some old-fashioned communicators may see this as the beginning of the end for communication, the studies conclude that these changes represent more of an evolution of language as we know it. In the 2016 report, the researchers found that so-called “textisms” were helping to fill the void left by a lack of in-person chats.

“In contrast with face-to-face conversation, texters can’t rely on extra-linguistic cues such as tone of voice and pauses, or non-linguistic cues such as facial expressions and hand gestures,” study author Celia Klin, PhD, a psychology professor at Binghamton University, said in a statement. “In a spoken conversation, the cues aren’t simply add-ons to our words; they convey critical information. A facial expression or a rise in the pitch of our voices can entirely change the meaning of our words.” https://3f520d9a60f295e243a887aee0ace682.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Klin explains that such grammatical constructions—including intentional misspellings, emoticons, or the “irregular use of punctuation”—gave added meaning to text messages. And when it comes down to it, the quick nature of text conversations creates a different level of expectations on both ends of the digital keyboard.

“We read text messages in a slightly different way than we read a novel or an essay,” she stated. “Further, all the elements of our texts—the punctuation we choose, the way that words are spelled, a smiley face—can change the meaning. The hope, of course, is that the meaning that is understood is the one we intended.”

So the next time you want to make sure you’re not coming off too harshly, keep it simple with the punctuation, period. And for more language lessons, check out 50 Words You Hear Every Day But Don’t Know What They Mean.

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