Texting and the monstrous full stop

By Cassandra Allen

Research from December 2015 suggests my text messages make me sound “insincere and unfriendly”.

Apparently that’s because I punctuate my short messages with a full stop!

Well, I’ll tell you now, my short messages are not very short. They usually contain multiple sentences, with no abbreviations and more than just full stops for punctuation.

Full stops are a fact of life when I’m messaging. And naturally, correct spelling. I’m also pretty keen on emojis to further illustrate my point. But that’s another story.

The research conducted at Binghamton University in New York tested the full stop in a series of exchanges in either text message or handwritten notes.

When the text message replies included a full stop, people rated the response as less sincere than when no punctuation was used. There was no such effect in the handwritten notes.

What’s wrong with punctuating a text message correctly? It’s what I do for a living. I can’t close my proofreader’s eye just because I’m texting.

But equally, I don’t want you to perceive me as heartless because I end my message appropriately. Perhaps I should add a smiley face after every full stop?

Or not. The researchers think the full-of-confidence exclamation mark might save the day. Rather than using a full stop as “an act of psychological warfare against your friends,” they’re following up their research with a theory the exclamation makes your message seem more sincere than no punctuation at all.

Who would’ve known?

The researchers put it down to the absence of face-to-face social cues in text messages. We don’t get to see facial expressions, hear pauses in speech or tone of voice, so punctuation influences the perceived meaning of a message.

All very interesting. But I can’t change my ways. Please, cut me some slack the next time I text you. I’m not a monster, just a stickler for punctuation.