As Celia Klin, professor of psychology at Binghamton University and author of the study, described to PsyPost, people are increasingly deferring to irregular spellings and irregular use of punctuation (e.g., “heyyyy” and “???”) to help better convey the sort of tone and nuance that they might otherwise understand perfectly in a face-to-face conversation.
“People use what they have available to them when they text. Because they can’t use tone or voice or facial expressions, for example, they use things like punctuation to add to or change the meaning of the words," she said. "The hope, of course, is that the meaning that is understood is the one we intended."
The study was conducted using three experiments and included 137 participants, who were asked to read and rate different text exchanges that began with a question and were responded to with a one-word answer — some of which were punctuated with a period. The majority of respondents perceived those with a period to be more negative.