Is it RUDE to use full stops in text messages? Linguist reveals why the punctuation mark is making you look ‘passive aggressive’
- Gretchen McCulloch says more people now find ending texts with full stop rude
- For young people, way to break up thoughts is to send each one as new message
- Full-stop has connotations of being formal or serious when it’s used in speech
- Gretchen, from Quebec, has written a book about the rules of internet language
If your mate signed off their Whatsapp message to you with a full stop, how would you feel?
Would you worry you were in trouble, that you’d done something to offend them, and frantically start re-running your recent conversation with them in your mind?
You’d be forgiven for questioning it, as according to an internet linguist, the simple punctuation mark has taken on an almost ‘passive aggressive’ connotation when it comes to messaging.
Gretchen McCulloch, from Montreal, Quebec, who has written a book about the rules of internet language, says many young people now see ending a text with a full stop as rude.
How would you feel if your mate signed off a text message with a full stop? The punctuation mark appears to have taken on a whole new emotional meaning
This is down to the way many of us communicate our thoughts in instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
‘If you’re a young person and you’re sending a message to someone, the default way to break up your thoughts is to send each thought as a new message,’ she told the BBC.
‘Because the minimum thing necessary to send is the message itself, anything additional you include can take on an additional interpretation.’
According to a study by Binghamton University in 2015 published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, 126 undergraduates who took part claimed to find text messages that ended in a full stop less sincere than the same message without the punctuation mark.
Gretchen McCulloch, from Montreal, Quebec, has written a book about the rules of internet language and says many young people now see ending a text with a full stop as rude
Celia Klin, who led the study, concluded: ‘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 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.’
Gretchen explained that in spoken speech, a full stop is usually accompanied by a lowering of the voice, as the speaker reaches the end of their sentence.
According to Gretchen, the simple punctuation mark has taken on an almost ‘passive aggressive’ connotation when it comes to messaging
As a result, it carries an air of formality and seriousness. On a text message, it’s fine to use it if your intention is to be serious, however Gretchen says it can be troublesome if you’re trying to keep things light.
‘The problem comes when you have a positive message with the seriousness of the full stop,’ she said.
‘It’s the juxtaposition of those things which creates that sense of passive aggression.’
While some people who use full stops may feel frustrated by its newfound connotations, others may choose to use it to their advantage.
On a text message, it’s fine to use a full stop if your intention is to be serious, however Gretchen says it can be troublesome if you’re trying to keep things light
‘If you and your friends don’t normally use full stops in a WhatsApp group and then somebody does, they are probably trying to tell you something about how they feel,’ suggested Erika Darics, a lecturer in linguistics at Aston University in Birmingham.
While some may argue the language of text messaging and use of emojis can encourage a culture of laziness when it comes to grammar, Erika refutes this claim.
‘Things like emojis raise awareness of language and can help us understand subtleties in other types of communication, like politics or propaganda,’ she told the BBC.
‘It encourages linguistic creativity.’
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