You ever know someone who is a genuine person, except when it comes to text messages? A friend you get along fantastically well with in person, through emails, on Facebook, and so on  but for some reason, when it comes to text messaging, they always seem like they have a really negative attitude? As if the act of texting makes them abrupt, disingenuous, and callous?

Well, the answer might be due to his little mark here:

period1

It might seem hard to believe, but the most innocuous punctuation mark of all is the enemy of friendly text message communication. While a lack of periods would make books, blogs, articles, and even emails almost totally unreadable, the use of periods in shorter form text messages actually does a person no favors.

In text messages, ending your text with a full stop/period comes off as cold, ill-tempered, or passive aggressive. Thanks to years of instant messaging services, sentences (or sometimes parts of sentences, or ideas) in a chat window are generally expected to end with a line break, as this makes a clear enough distinction between one sentence and the next. In this way, texting is more similar to poetry than a letter. For example:

It’s important to remember that every punctuation mark matters

But form varies depending on the medium

And texts shouldn’t end on a full stop

This is necessary, to convey proper meaning

Or you risk being misintepreted

And that’s no use to anyone

So pay attention

Above, the line break does the work of breaking apart ideas. So the use of a period in a text seems as if you’re using it for a reason, and thus makes the recipient of your text question why you used it, if only subconsciously. And usually, this usage of a period is interpreted negatively.

Now, this doesn’t mean periods are going the way of the dinosaur. In this blog, for example, periods are needed in order to break apart sentences, because all of these sentences are put together in a body of text. In texting, for better or worse, this is not the case, due to the fact that people have been trained on instant messenger services for years to expect line breaks instead of periods. Of course, whether you use full stops or not is up to you, but if one is going to use texts to begin with, one should understand the psychology behind them  so one isn’t surprised when they get less-than-cheerful results.

ufo

According to a study by NPR, if you end your text message with a full stop, people will think that you’re purposely being insincere. It seems intentional. NPR’s analysis is that because texting is so conversational, it functions by rules more like an actual conversation than emails; emails require more time and investment, which is why they more closely resemble snail mail letters, and tend to have more thought put into them. Texting, on the other hand, is like chatting; in real life conversations, people subconsciously analyze one another’s body language, tone, and expressions to interpret meaning, and in texts, people tend to do the same thing. But in texting, there’s no physical evidence to survey, so people instead subconsciously analyze grammar, word choice, and punctuation. Which means that a period, while almost invisible in an email, is very noticeable at the end of a text. Most of the time, it’s interpreted as a sign of passive aggressiveness.

cofedit

Now, on a personal note, I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of texting to begin with. Actually, I do whatever I can to avoid it. Don’t get me wrong. Texting has its uses. When it comes to simple, short messages, such as needing to confirm a location or wanting to let someone know an arrival time or address, texting is great. It’s also nice for leaving people complimentary notes, along the lines of a shorter-form email: for example, after seeing an old friend, it’s nice to shoot them a text that says “Awesome to see you, man!” as a small little token of appreciation.

But for conversations that require a lot of back and forth correspondence? No thanks. For debates or arguments? Hell no, that should either be in person or in a phone call, where I can at least get some sense of the human being on the other end of the cell phone; really, that defines exactly why I dislike texting, because most of human communication isn’t just in the content of a message. Physical cues, vocal inflections, deeper meanings, all of that tends to get lost in the sometimes hostile world of Textland™.

Unlike emails, blogs, and comments, texting is immediate, less deliberate, and under the same pressures as regular conversation; you can take a day to respond to an email, but you can’t take more than an hour to respond to a text. Texting, as opposed to doing a phone call, makes it easier to send stressful messages, because you don’t have to see or hear a human being on the other end. But losing that human connection, painful as real human interactions may sometimes be, is inherently dangerous. Texting bypasses everything that makes actual human conversation painful, awkward, and anxiety-inducing… but texting also bypasses everything that makes actual human conversation meaningful.

But texting has its uses. In this new, digital, globalized age, it’s here to stay, and there’s no point pretending that it’s going to go away: instead, we should focus on refining it, making it better, and understanding why so many are drawn to it. Texting has become a useful communication tool for a lot of people, and it’s important to recognize that. But as a new form of communication, it’s also important to understand the rules of it before breaking them, and thus causing misunderstandings.

So, regarding periods…

Bottom line, when it comes to texts

We should end them

Like this

And people won’t misinterpret our intentions

Thanks for reading! Comment below, and let’s hear your thoughts.

 

 

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14 thoughts on “The Problem with Periods in Text Messaging

  1. Interesting, I always end on a full stop, I do it in Facebook messages as well but usually people just pick up on my proper use of punctuation when it isn’t technically needed or so they say. Personally I think if people misinterpret my texts due to the full stop then they probably don’t know me that well so it won’t matter. I wonder if the future for everything is to be broken up like an instant message.

    • Haha, well I think it wouldn’t work for most forms of communication, since paragraphs would be rendered unreadable without full stops. That said, I think Facebook messages are probably less likely to be misread when containing periods than text messages, since Facebook messages are often a bit longer, which kind of “defuses” the period. I think the same is true of longer texts as well, compared to when someone sends a one word text combined with a negative sentiment, like “No.” or “I don’t.”

      • There would be no paragrpahs in books, just line breaks after every sentence, it would be mad…and would grate on my traditional sensibilities. I find with texts if somebody puts a full stop it pleases me no matter how negative the comment as I am a stickler for such things lol,

  2. Never realized how true this is! Going to notice it in all my texts now (incoming and outgoing) so thanks for that 😜. Love the conversation though…technology has such an interesting and continuously groundbreaking impact on our humanity and relationships. I’m sure it will only get more interesting! Thanks for sharing 👍

    • Thanks for commenting! Yes, the evolution of conversation is quite interesting, and will only get more so as society becomes increasingly globalized, I think, and as new forms of communication are developed.

  3. This is a good post. I guess I’m just old fashion, and still belive in using proper punctuation. Most of the people that I text wouldn’t get any of this anyway. They barely know how to write a proper sentence and put periods in the middle of the thought.

    • Haha yes, I do understand this completely, and agree with you. That’s part of why I tend to dislike texting in general, admittedly; I feel like I can convey myself much more effectively in either a phone call or an email, and the short form nature of texting leads to misinterpretations I’d rather avoid.

      • Good point about the texting . However, my text are rarely short and very descriptive. I have found that when dealing with angry, hateful people it’s better done by text. It gives me a chance to cool down, before I reply, and not let others push my buttons.

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