One thing you should never do in a text message

Punctuation pedants might think they’re doing the right thing by using a full stop during text messages, it turns out it’s actually one of the biggest technological faux pas one can make, according to new research.

The study titled Texting insincerely: The role of the period in text messaging by Binghamton University, recorded people’s attitudes to text message replies with and without full stops and came up with startling findings.

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According to one of the study’s chief authors, the changing influence of the full stop could shift the way we interpret punctuation.

“Punctuation is used and understood by texters to convey emotions and other social and pragmatic information,” the study’s head researcher Celia Klin told Eureka Alert.

“Given that people are wonderfully adept at communicating complex and nuanced information in conversations, it’s not surprising that as texting evolves, people are finding ways to convey the same types of information in their texts,” she said. 

The responses in white a short and painfully full stopped.

The responses in white are short and have been painfully full stopped.

An example of how the full stop can be misinterpreted can be seen in the use of the word ‘sure’. Consider how it looks with a full stop as opposed to an exclamation mark.

“Sure!” conveys excitement and enthusiasm. 

“Sure.” reads like a response from someone who does not want to hang out with you.

“Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations,” Ms Klin said.

“When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on.

“People obviously can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting.

“Thus, it makes sense that texters rely on what they have available to them – emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and, according to our data, punctuation.”

How did they do it?

Researchers from Binghamton University asked 126 university undergraduates to read a series of conversations.

text message shock

Ditch the full stops to avoid a bad reply surprise from your friends. Photo: Getty

Half were text message conversations and the other half were handwritten notes.

All of the conversations included positively skewed one-word responses with and without full stops.

The words used for the study’s one-word responses included “Okay”, “Sure”, “Yep” and “Yup”.

The students were then asked for their impressions of the correspondence, and the text messages with full stops were rated as “less sincere” than those without them.

There was no noticeable difference when handwritten note responses were examined, according to the findings.

The results illustrate how the development of digital communication is impacting on tried and tested punctuation and language standards.

While it is certainly correct to punctuate short responses with a full stop, your message’s grammatical accuracy might skew its meaning or impact in a way that you had not intended.

Or you just pick up the phone and make a call.

Better still, do the talking face-to-face. It’s very hard for a message to be mixed that way.


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