If you’ve ever wondered why people don’t often use periods to end their text messages, you can cross off the idea that they’re just against proper grammar.
According to a new study published last month in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, text messages ending with periods are perceived as less sincere.
“Text messaging is one of the most frequently used computer-mediated communication (CMC) methods. The rapid pace of texting mimics face-to-face communication, leading to the question of whether the critical non-verbal aspects of conversation, such as tone, are expressed in CMC,” the researchers write in the study.
The Binghamton University researchers, led by psychology professor Celia Klin, had 126 undergraduate participants read a series of 16 exchanges that came in either text message or handwritten form.
The exchanges featured a sender’s message and invitation (e.g., Dave gave me his extra tickets. Wanna come?) and then the receiver’s one-word response accepting the invitation. Each exchange had a version that ended with a period and a version that did not end with any punctuation.
Text messages that ended with periods were rated by participants as less sincere than text messages that did not. The use of periods in handwritten notes, however, were not rated any more or less sincere.
“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,” Klin said in a statement. “People obviously can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting. 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.”
In a follow-up study, Klin’s team found that text messages ending with exclamation points were perceived as more sincere that text messages with no punctuation at all.
“That’s not surprising, but it broadens our claim,” Klin explained. “Punctuation is used and understood by texters to convey emotions and other social and pragmatic information. Given that people are wonderfully adept at communicating complex and nuanced information in conversations, it’s not surprising that as texting evolves, people are finding ways to convey the same types of information in their texts.”