“We’ve agreed that putting a period after a one-word response in a text conveys something like abruptness, annoyance, negativity”
This is the greatest research ever conducted on punctuation. Period.
So-called “textisms” — i.e., emoji, deliberate misspellings (“soooo”) and irregular punctuation (“!!!”) — are believed to add valuable context to text messages that otherwise lack the subtleties and nonverbal cues (tone, pauses and gestures) of a face-to-face conversation, a recent study in the journal Computers in Human Behavior says.
So the authors, zeroing in on punctuation, found the inclusion of a period can convey negativity. Across three experiments using 10 male and 39 female undergraduate participants, the Binghamton University researchers examined how including or omitting a period in a one-word text response to an invitation — like “yeah,” “maybe” or “nope” — affected people’s understanding.
“We found that if you put a period after those short, one-word responses, the people reading the texts … understand (it) as being more negative, less enthusiastic, than if they had no period,” co-author Celia Klin told Moneyish. “We’ve agreed that putting a period after a one-word response in a text conveys something like abruptness, annoyance, negativity.”
These findings held true with positive (“yeah” or “yup”), neutral (“maybe” or “alright”) or negative (“nope” or “nah”) responses. Periods, the researchers wrote, “can serve a rhetorical, rather than a grammatical, function in text messages.” And punctuation, in a more general sense, “can convey the types of social and pragmatic information that are communicated with extra-linguistic cues in face-to-face conversations.”
A key takeaway, according to the authors, is that people have adapted to communicate effectively with whatever tools they have — as language and technological innovation constantly evolve.
“Language users are clever,” Klin said. “We use what we’ve got.”
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