Whatever You Do—Don't End a Text With This Punctuation Mark

Updated 05/05/19
Sandra Semburg

It’s common knowledge that using a period at the end of a sentence is a grammatically correct way to complete a written thought. But as anyone with a smartphone knows, punctuating a text message with a period at the end signals more than the end of a conversation; in some cases, it’s used to express anger or irritation. While the “K.” text is the frostiest message one could possibly send via smartphone, simply ending a sentence with a period runs a close second.

Linguists have been investigating the period as an angry punctuation mark within texting language (called “textspeak” or “textese”), and their conclusion is that textspeak has developed its own set of stylistic norms—ones that attempt to mimic a spoken conversation as opposed to a written one. “Because text messaging is a conversation that involves a lot of back-and-forth, people add fillers as a way to mimic spoken language. The period is the opposite of that—a definitive stop that signals, ‘This is final, this is the end of the discussion,’” writes LiveScience’s Lauren Collister.

This is substantiated by a recent study from psychologist Danielle Gunraj, who sought to understand the role of periods in text messaging. Gunraj found that people perceived texts punctuated with a period at the end as “insincere,” compared to those written without a period. This sentiment did not translate over to written notes. As our communication style evolves with the inclusion of technology and smartphones, we may have to think before we speak (or type) now more than ever.
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