Drop the Dot: Periods Makes Text Messages ‘Less Sincere,’ Study Finds

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Does this sentence seem friendly? Maybe not now..

Anyone who texts a lot has likely puzzled over the tone of a message. The use of a period in text messages conveys insincerity, annoyance and abruptness, according to a new study from the State University of New York Binghamton.A new Binghamton University study of 126 undergrads reveals that texts ending with a period were seen as less sincere than those that left the full-stop punctuation mark off. But with text messages, where it’s often difficult to determine a sender’s intent, using a period at the end of a sentence can often seem less sincere, research from Binghamton University in New York has found.

A team of researchers, headed by Celia Klin, an associate professor of psychology at Binghamton University, asked 126 undergraduates to read a series of exchanges that appeared either as a text message or were handwritten. “Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations. A Binghamton University research team found that text messages ending in the most final of punctuation marks – eg “lol.”, “let’s go to Nando’s.”, “send nudes.” – are perceived as being less sincere. When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on,” Klin said in a statement. “People obviously can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting. After reading one version of experimental exchange, which each contained a statement followed by an invitation to the recipient (“Dave gave me his extra tickets.

Thus, 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.” The messages used in Klin’s study contained questions with affirmative one-word replies. Yes: the high revolving sound you hear is the rules of English grammar spinning up to G-force speed in the grave in which they lay, but otherwise this seems like a win. Short written missives like texts lack contextual clues, such as the real-life facial expressions and speaking volume that usually tell us what a person means beneath what they say. The results of this study suggest that as we shift more toward speedy online exchanges, we may be inventing new ways to convey tone, which include the creative use and interpretation of punctuation. But the study does offer support for the idea that we’re developing new rules in written language to communicate subtleties like passive-aggression.

Future studies in this area could expand the sample size to be more evenly split by gender, and to include non-native English speakers or people from older generations, to shed light on whether impressions of sincerity change when we know we’re texting people from another demographic. In fact, it’s probably time we clamped down on callous phone use in general: anyone who leaves a voicemail message should have to do six weeks of hard labour; anyone guilty of doing that iMessage “…” thing for ages then ultimately deleting the text needs to do litter-picking along a busy A-road; anyone who responds to a message longer than 20 words with a single “k” needs to be immediately deported. More from WSJ.D: And make sure to visit WSJ.D for all of our news, personal tech coverage, analysis and more, and add our XML feed to your favorite reader.

Greenspan assigns a range of meanings to seemingly innocuous punctuation – exclamation points are either playful or desperate, “depending on the usage,” semicolons are “trying too hard.” Commas, by contrast, notes Mental Floss, citing the writer Gertrude Stein, “are servile and … have no life of their own.” In a follow-up study, Klin found that sentences that end with exclamation points are often perceived as more sincere compared to messages with periods. She says that as a common vocabulary for texting and online communication continues to evolve, with, for example, text in all caps perceived as shouting, people have learned to evoke the subtleties of speech in short, written bursts. “Punctuation is used and understood by texters to convey emotions and other social and pragmatic information.

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