Nobody likes a grammar Nazi. They’re tiresome, they’re wrong half the time, and they want the entire world to revolve around their love of high school English. And this dislike may, perhaps, have spread to the world of texting, as researchers have found the humble period to signal insincerity.
Their research method was pretty straightforward; they had their subjects read a series of texts, each of which were a question and a one-word answer. Think along the lines of texting somebody to ask if they want to split a pizza. The responses that didn’t end with anything were rated as far more sincere than those using the right punctuation, so, at least for 126 college students, proper punctuation is a sign of rudeness. If you were wondering, an exclamation point sounds really sincere over text, and this doesn’t hold true of handwritten notes; the same study found that there’s no effect on perception if you use a period when jotting something down for a friend.
The study argues that punctuation, in texting, is taking the place of the subtle cues we use to read somebody in conversation, along with emoticons, deliberate misspellings, and spelled-out nonverbal sounds like “um.” Anybody who has sent what they thought was an innocent text only to get eight fire emoji and a string of profanity learns this the hard way. Or people could just be entirely, brutally honest when texting. We actually prefer that as a social convention; hey, it keeps the lights on.