It’s official – ending your text message with a period is a social no-no, regardless of what grammar experts say.
A team of Binghamton University researchers led by Celia Klin says a study they carried out shows text messages ending with a period are perceived by the receiver as being less sincere and probably sent by someone who is heartless.
The study, aptly titled ‘Texting insincerely: The role of the period in text messaging’, involved 126 undergraduates who were representative of the most prolific texters demographic.
“Text messaging is one of the most frequently used computer-mediated communication (CMC) methods. The rapid pace of texting mimics face-to-face communication, leading to the question of whether the critical non-verbal aspects of conversation, such as tone, are expressed in CMC,” write the researchers.
To test whether the period had become a social cue within the context of CMC, the researchers presented the study group with a series of exchanges, some text messages and the others as handwritten notes.
The experimental messages featured an invitation followed by a brief reply. When the reply was followed by a period, the response was rated as less sincere than when no punctuation was used. When this same message and response was presented in handwritten notes, the effect was not present.
According to Klin, that is an indication that the period in text messages has taken on a life of its own. It is no longer just the correct way to end a sentence; it’s an act of psychological warfare against your friends. In follow-up research, the researchers found that exclamation points, once seen as an uncouth punctuation mark, made text messages appear more sincere than no punctuation at all.
“Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations. When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on,” says Klin. “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.”
The take away message of the study appears to be that members of pre-CMC generations had better take heed. If you insist on grammatical correctness, you may suffer the unintended consequences.