Want to win friends and influence people? Stop using proper punctuation in text messages.
A new study published by Binghamton University said that ending texts with a period can cast you in a dishonest light.
“The rapid pace of texting mimics face-to-face communication, leading to the question of whether the critical non-verbal aspects of conversation, such as tone, are expressed” via texts, the study said. “We ask whether punctuation—specifically, the period—may serve as a cue for pragmatic and social information.”
Led by Binghamton’s Celia Klin, researchers recruited 126 undergraduate students to read a series of exchanges—in the form of a text message or handwritten note—which did or did not include a sentence-ending period.
Across 16 experimental chats, the sender’s message contained a statement and a question: “Dave gave me his extra tickets. Wanna come?” The recipient, meanwhile, responded with one affirmative word: “Okay,” “Sure,” “Yeah,” Yup.”
Participants saw two versions of each exchange: One in which the response ended with a period, and one in which it didn’t. According to the study, those punctuated with a full stop were rated “less sincere” than those that did not. Researchers found no such difference among handwritten notes.
As more folks opt for typed communication over verbal or in-person contact, social cues become more muddled. “When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on,” Klin said in a statement.
“People obviously can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting,” she continued. “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.”
In a recent follow-up, Klin’s team discovered that a text response with an exclamation point is interpreted as more sincere—a revelation the researchers found unsurprising.
“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,” Klin said.
So, if you want to appear more earnest when texting the boss, the in-laws, or a new crush, just end all of your typed messages with exclamation marks! (Or compose a handwritten note.)