In an expansion of research published last year that found people associate one-word texts punctuated with a period with insincerity, the same team of experts have further determined that ending a one-word text message with a period is also a quick way to convey negativity.
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.
Punctuation is an essential part of language, and properly using it may be one way to flaunt how well you know it, but as we evolve to communicate in many new and different ways, it might be worth ditching the insistence on properly punctuating your text messages.
As Klin pointed out to PsyPost, “There’s the tendency, for people throughout history, to believe that the evolution of language is all in the past, and whatever language was like when they learned it should be the end of the evolutionary process. Not so! We don’t speak or write exactly like our great grandparents did, and our great grandchildren won’t speak or write exactly like we do.”