Anna Gragert
December 09, 2015 8:31 pm

While texting is fun and efficient, it can get a bit tricky when it comes to the art of interpretation. Right this second, you could happily text a friend saying “Thanks” (without an emoji, which is honestly a communicative game changer) and that friend could easily misconstrue your gratitude as sarcasm. Besides, that’s just one example! Think of all the misconstrued texts that are currently floating around on our phones.

Since language matters, it makes sense that our words have an impact (especially when they lack tone and context). But, did you know that your grammar usage can speak volumes as well?

Binghamton University’s Department of Psychology set out to see whether or not a period (the one at the end of a sentence) makes a difference in our messages. They had 126 undergraduate participants read short pieces of dialogue – which were either handwritten or in text message form – that either did or did not include a period at the end. Once this dialogue began appearing in the form of text messages, something interesting happened: the participants rated sentences that did end with a period as “less sincere.” Oddly enough, no such difference was noted for handwritten notes.

According to Celia Klin, the study’s lead researcher, this means that punctuation influences a text message’s perceived meaning.

“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,” explained Klin. “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.”

Luckily, we have some good news for all you grammar lovers out there: an exclamation point is interpreted as “more sincere,” based on the follow-up work Klin’s team has done. So, while the classic period has betrayed us, at least we still have the exclamation point in our corner.

Sigh. If only they’d taught us this in school… Oh, wait! We mean: Sigh! If only they’d taught us this in school!!!

[Image via Shutterstock]

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