Will texting change the meaning of the period?

Here’s an interesting article about a development I’ve noticed since I’ve started texting a lot with my kids.  Because I’m a writer and I’m fond of punctuation (and I don’t send hundreds of texts a day), I typically end my texts with a period, even though it’s a bit of a pain on an iPhone: you have to switch to a different “keyboard” first, so it takes two finger movements instead of one.  My kids typically don’t bother.  The article argues that including the period may convey something to the recipient that I certainly didn’t intend:

In most written language, the period is a neutral way to mark a pause or complete a thought; but digital communications are turning it into something more aggressive. “Not long ago, my 17-year-old son noted that many of my texts to him seemed excessively assertive or even harsh, because I routinely used a period at the end,” Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, told me by email. How and why did the period get so pissed off?

Since the default in texting is to not include the final punctuation, people will want to figure out what message you’re sending when you do it.  And maybe they’ll assume you’re being harsh and parental, instead of just being an old fuddy-dud.  The writer points out:

[T]hese newfangled, emotional uses of terminal punctuation haven’t crossed over into more traditional, thoughtful writing. (I have used the period throughout this story, and I’m in a perfectly pleasant mood.) Perhaps one day it will, though, and our descendants will wonder why everyone used to be so angry.

It’s a good thing we won’t be around to find out.

5 thoughts on “Will texting change the meaning of the period?

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