God forbid we actually use proper punctuation nowadays. Why so? Well, because ending a text message with a full stop makes you look like a heartless robot, says study. Researchers at Binghamton University, with Celia Klin leading the pack, have found that if you use a full stop, or period, to end a message, you’ll be perceived as an insincere individual.
CMC, computer-mediated communication, is one of the most used methods to get in touch with other people – whether it is to say hi, or for business purposes. Yet, even though it lets us talk with people scattered across the globe, the lack of tone and the non-verbal aspect of the conversation are shattering trust.
The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
In order to test this hypothesis, researchers took to 126 undergraduates. Sure, they are clearly not representative for the whole population, but the target demo is there – teenagers are the most prolific texters.
Those undergraduates were put face to face with a few back and forth conversations framed as either handwritten notes or text messages. These messages displayed an invitation to a party, event, whatever, follow by a short reply.
Almost every time the reply ended with a period, the test subjects considered it as less sincere and somewhat untrustworthy than when literally no punctuation was used.
I imagine that every English professor in the world is either laughing his mind off, or slowly crying in the shower – you know, so nobody can see the tears.
However, the subjects didn’t rate handwritten notes the same. The effect was 100 percent not present.
Klin, and her wild pack of researchers, have said that this is the perfect indication that the CMC message full stop has evolved into something much more than anyone could have ever predicted. It has a life of its own.
It resembles some sort of psychological weapon that you can use to play mind games with your friends.
There’s a follow-up research that says that exclamation points can actually make your message look more sincere, and subsequently, more trustworthy. It hasn’t been published yet, but we’ll link to it as soon as it’s live.
When speaking via a text message, you don’t have the usual social cues that showcase if said person is angry, sarcastic, sad, or happy. Everyone conveys some sort of emotion when face-to-face with someone – whether it is through the tone of voice, facial expression or fidgeting around. These mechanisms aren’t available for people who are texting, so texters are aided by emoticons and the option to deliberately misspell words to mimic sound and punctuation. According to the data we have, says Klin.
Don’t despair – language has always been evolving in weird and scary ways. It’s just what humans like to do. Grammar nazis, be warned – if you insist on being grammatically correct every time, you will most certainly suffer the consequences. As in, a lot of replies with a ton of punctuation.
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