In the age of internet communications it can be hard to tease out the real meaning of a message because we are deprived of visual cues.
Now a new study suggests that ending text messages with a full stop makes them seem less sincere than messages that are left without punctuation. Researchers have concluded that punctuation can send an incorrect emotional message to the recipient, writes Rick Nauert for PsychCentral.
Study shows importance of punctuation in text messages
The study, results of which are published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, involves 126 undergraduates from Binghamton University. The students were asked to read notes delivered either as text messages or handwritten notes.
Messages contained a statement and an invitation phrased as a question such as: “Dave gave me his extra tickets. Wanna come?” The response was an affirmative one word response such as “Okay” or “Sure,” some of which were followed by a period.
Results showed that messages which ended with a period were perceived as less sincere than those that did not. Lead study author Celia Klin claims that the results show how punctuation plays a role in our interpretation of written communication.
Non-verbal communication lacking in text messages
Participants were not provided with the most important social and contextual cues, but they still rated the sincerity of text messages using punctuation.
“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,” said 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.”
The researchers later found that exclamation marks make messages seem more sincere. “That’s not surprising, but it broadens our claim,” said Klin. “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.”