It was drilled into our heads in primary school that a full stop should be applied after each sentence. This was mainly done as a marker of differentiation between two sentences to avoid confusion and aid understanding. It made sense back then as we wrote flowing prose. But now, with text messaging, we’ve all become used to staccato writing (rather typing).
All you now need to do is hit enter
It’s obvious it’s a separate sentence, because it appears below the preceding one, not next to it.
David Crystal – who has written more than 100 books on language and is a former master of original pronunciation at Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London – sees a clear downfall in the usage of the period/full stop/point. “We are at a momentous moment in the history of the full stop,” said professor Crystal, an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales. “In an instant message, it is pretty obvious a sentence has come to an end and none will have a full stop,” he added “So why use it?”
In its own way, though, the full stop may be facing an upgrade. From just being a humble stop to a sentence, now it’s come to indicate a range of emotions and intentions – irony, syntactic snark, insincerity, even aggression.
A 2015 study way you punctuate your text messages reveals how sincere you are in communication. The researchers recruited 126 undergraduates, who read a series of exchanges that appeared either as text messages or as handwritten notes. In the 16 experimental exchanges, the sender’s message contained a statement followed by an invitation phrased as a question ( for example, Dave gave me his extra tickets. Wanna come?). The receiver’s response was an affirmative one-word response (Okay, Sure, Yeah, Yup). There were two versions of each experimental exchange: one in which the receiver’s response ended with a period and one in which it did not end with any punctuation. Based on the participants’ responses, text messages that ended with a period were rated as less sincere than text messages that did not end with a period.
Or, for example, how would you respond to a text message from your girlfriend saying ‘Fine’ as opposed to ‘Fine.’? Doesn’t the latter hint at a twinge of resentment? What is interesting is that these perceptions due to the presence/absence of a full stop are becoming more and more instinctive.
“The period now has an emotional charge and has become an emoticon of sorts,” Professor Crystal said. “In the 1990s, the Internet created an ethos of linguistic free love where breaking the rules was encouraged and punctuation was one of the ways this could be done. It is not necessary to use a period in a text message, so to make something explicit that is already implicit makes a point of it,” he said. “It’s like when you say, ‘I am not going – period’ It’s a mark. It can be aggressive. It can be emphatic. It can mean, ‘I have no more to say’.”