You may feel as if topping off your texts with a period makes you sound extra sophisticated (not to mention grammatically correct). But it turns out, you could just be coming off like you’ve got an attitude to your pal on the receiving end.
Folks do in fact interpret punctuation use in text message exchanges, according to a study recently published in Computers in Human Behavior, and text messages with periods are perceived as less sincere.
A team of researchers at Binghamton University recruited 126 undergraduate students to assess 16 non-verbal exchanges in the form of either texts or handwritten notes. In each conversation, the sender’s message kicked off with a statement, followed by an invitation in the form of a question (think, “Dave gave me his extra tickets. Wanna come?”). The receiver’s response was an abrupt, one-word response, like “Okay,” “Sure,” or “Yeah.”
They experimented with two versions of each exchange, one in which the receiver’s answer didn’t end with any punctuation, and one in which the receiver’s response ended with a period. The results? Students tended to rate text messages with periods as less sincere than those sans periods.
Following the initial study, the team, led by Celia Klin, PhD, tested out whether exclamation points would sway the results. They found that the mark did in fact make texts come off as more sincere, rather than less sincere, like the period.
The findings weren’t all that surprising, Klin, who is an associate professor of psychology and the associate dean at Binghamton University’s Harpur College, said in a press release.
“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,” she explained. “People obviously can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting … 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.”