A period. It’s a punctuation mark that signals the end of a statement or phrase. It’s a powerful little dot that informs readers that one thought is coming to an end and another one is about to begin.
However, the period has come to mean a lot more in recent years, according to this New York Post article.
I had a friend who was always a little weird about texting me. He finally came clean after a few weeks and told me that he had a hard time reconciling how I could sound so pleasant in a text message… when I ended all of my sentences with periods.
Naturally, this was pretty confusing to me. As someone who works hard to communicate with others, I’ve always valued concise writing–which means that I try my best to write in a grammatically correct way. Little did I know that a period had come to mean something else entirely in writing. I get that sometimes I’m out of the loop, but even this took me by surprise. Here I thought I was hip… but I now I realize that I’m just an elbow.
Somewhere down the line, a period – that tiny little punctuation mark that packs such a serious punch – came to mean that someone was angry or annoyed with the other person. I’ve known people who, when upset, will simply text “.” to another person, and that evidently told the other individual everything they needed to know–in this case, it was that they were in hot water and better make amends ASAP.
image via The writer magazine
A period in a text message can indicate that the sender is annoyed or upset. In her New York Post article, Hannah Frishberg states that using a period while texting creates a more emphatic response – but that doesn’t mean it makes the response a positive one. It can make a statement more intense without the writer intending for that result… or, well, maybe the writer did intend for that to happen.
When you’re texting a person, the simple act of sending the message indicates that you have finished your thought, so a period just isn’t necessary. You’ve sent the message. The thought has been completed and you have moved on, right? This means that, when you do include a period in your text messages, it can come off as hostile to the recipient. Responding to a text message with, “I’m fine thanks for asking” is a bit lighter; whereas texting back “I’m fine. Thanks for asking.” might have a different tone entirely. There are aggressive and insincere undertones to using this one punctuation mark in a text message now.
So I guess the question is… what now?
Frishberg cites Victoria Turk, a journalist who references how periods can be used in other ways to create emphasis now. For example, now matter how hard I may try I’m. Just. Not. Hip.
Regardless of how we decide to use punctuation in our texting, I think we need to recognize how our communications styles may be perceived by others. One crucial part to communication is being able to talk openly with another person, so if we are concerned about the way a person phrased something, perhaps the next thing we should ask should be “is there really any harm in asking for clarification?”
image via flickr
I can’t help but feel lots of rifts could be bridged if we were to stop and ask each other, “Could you tell me what you mean by that?” “Why is it that periods are now viewed as aggressive?” “This is a bit confusing to me. I’m not upset with you at all, but could you tell me why you think I am so we can resolve this issue?”
If we can’t talk these things through, then I don’t think we can ever reach a satisfying solution.
After all, we can’t really get to the root of an issue if we don’t try to understand where the other individual is coming from.
Featured image via Seattle Magazine