Texting is how we communicate. You may have had to resign yourself to texting your children before you call them if you want them to pick up the phone, but it’s also proven to be the least complicated way to get a quick answer from someone or even reach a customer service person instead of waiting on hold. It’s easy and simple, but texting also has its own set of rules that may be hard to decipher. Have you ever felt that you’re being misunderstood in a text? It turns out, it could all be in the punctuation. If you want to come across natural via text—especially with the younger set—it’s best to unlearn a few things you were taught in English class. Read on to find out how you should never end a text message.
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Using a period at the end of a text message comes across as rude.
When it comes to texting, you have to throw all that grammar you’ve retained in your brain for, yes, your whole life, out the window—or at least one integral part of it: the period at the end of a sentence. Save that punctuation for your emails or your next novel, it’s now considered rude or even passive-aggressive in a text.
“To younger generations, using proper punctuation in a casual context like texting can give an impression of formality that borders on rudeness, as if the texter is not comfortable enough with the texting partner to relax,” reports The New York Times. “The message-ending period establishes a certain distance … Simply put, the inclusion of a formality in casual communication is unnerving.” This idea is backed up by data: A 2018 study out of Binghamton University found that “the inclusion of the period in text responses may be perceived as abrupt” and “one-word texts with periods were understood as more negative than responses without.”
Texting simulates speaking out loud.
So really, why no period? “Texting simulates speaking out loud, and its practitioners want to send thoughts as they have them,” says The New York Times. “Not using periods is a way for texters to indicate that they’re feeling relaxed with the recipient.”
If you think of texting like a conversation that flows rhythmically between people, leaving the period out allows for continued fluid discourse, while using a period closes the dialogue off with an abruptness that may leave the wrong impression. Picture being out at a restaurant with someone who gives short responses to everything or never says anything open-ended. That does not sound like a conversation that is flowing naturally or one that is much fun to be in. Ending every text with a period may conjure up similar feelings.
Try breaking up your texts.
Are you one of those texters who writes everything you need to say in one long paragraph without breaking it up? This is a problem that goes hand in hand with the period issue. In emails, articles, and reports, we separate thoughts with periods, and a comma here and there. But when it comes to texting (and talking), internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch explained to Lifehacker that we don’t always use complete sentences—we communicate in what she calls “utterances.” So, when it comes to “casual writing, we’re always looking for ways of breaking up utterances that aren’t as necessarily ‘final’ as a period,” she says. Usually this is done by simply starting a new text bubble.
“The consensus is that many texters, especially young people, see end-of-message periods as tonally significant because they are unnecessary. It is clear that a message has ended regardless of punctuation, because each message is in its own bubble. Thus, the message break has become the default full-stop,” says The New York Times.
If you end a text with a period, whether you realize it or not, it adds meaning “because anytime you do something that’s not the default, people have a tendency to interpret that as [meaningful],” says McCulloch. If the period follows a word or phrase that is normally positive or neutral, it could make it seem aggressive or even passive-aggressive. She suggests looking at how differently these three texts might come across as an example:
It’s still acceptable to use a mid-text period.
This is not to say that you cannot send texts that have multiple sentences, and yes, you can certainly use periods in between those. “The mid-text period is still fair game,” says The New York Times. “Only when it is the last character in a message does the period assume its tonal heft.” So, to let the conversation flow and steer clear of any miscommunications, it’s best to use those periods sparingly, OK!
Article by Megan Cahn for Best Life.