Take note, texters.
Texting is one of the most popular ways for people to keep in touch these days. I rarely use my phone to make a phone call anymore.
As with any means of communication, texting has its own set of rules, some that everyone knows, like not typing in all caps or to use the proper texting laughter. But some rules are more subtle, like to avoid using sarcasm (it doesn't always translate) and to never end a text with a period.
A study called "Texting insincerely: The Role of the period in Text Messaging," conducted by Celia Klin and her team of researchers at the Binghamton University, has found that text messages that end with a period are thought of as less sincere.
126 Binghamton undergraduates recruited for the study were given a series of exchanges that looked like text messages or handwritten notes. The 16 experimental exchanges started with a statement followed by an invitation phrased as a question (e.g. Steve gave me his extra tickets. Wanna come?).
The receiver's answer was a one-word reply that either ended with a period, "Sure," or ended with no punctuation at all (OK). Based on the participants' responses, text messages that ended with a period were seen as much more insincere than those without punctuation.
According to Klin, the study's results suggest that punctuation influences the perceived meaning of text messages. Even though most of the important social and contextual clues were gone, the sincerity of the short messages was judged differently depending on whether a period was there or not.
"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. "People obviously can't use these mechanisms when they're 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," said Klin
In a follow-up study, Klin's team discovered that a text response with an exclamation mark is thought of as more, rather than less, sincere.
"That's not surprising, but it broadens our claim," she said. "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."
Remember: when you don't want to come off as a total assh*le, don't use a period. And if you want to come off as enthusiastic and fun, use an exclamation mark, or three.