A new study has determined that texts ending with a period are perceived as less sincere than those ending with no punctuation at all. A follow-up study concluded that messages concluding with an exclamation point appear more sincere than those without any form of punctuation.
The study was conducted at Binghamton University’s Harpur College in the UK and involved a sample group of 126 students. The students were given both sides of a text conversation with a brief invitation such as “Dave gave me his extra ticket. Wanna come?” followed by a single word response such as “Okay”, “Sure”, “Yeah” or “Yup”. The students participating in the study were also given copies of similar exchanges written on handwritten notes.
The participants were then asked to evaluate the level of sincerity implied in the responses. The group felt that the text responses which ended in a period were less sincere than those that contained no punctuation.
The researchers performing the study found that “not so much that the period is used to convey a lack of sincerity in text messages, but that punctuation is one of the cues used by senders, and understood by receivers, to convey pragmatic and social information.” It seems as if a period implies that the response is not emotional or spontaneous. Instead, the reply is a more serious, intellectual one that has gone through prior consideration by the sender, and therefore lacking in heartfelt sincerity.
This explanation is given a boost by a follow-up study in which the participants ended their responses with an exclamation point as opposed to a period. The participants in that case actually found the texts containing the exclamation points to be more sincere than those with no punctuation at all. Thus, it isn’t punctuation itself that conveys lack of sincerity – but the type of punctuation. Apparently, a period evokes a sense of formality whereas an exclamation point conveys spontaneous passion that makes the word behind it appear more sincere.
What’s interesting is that the study participants did not find any difference in the sincerity levels of the responses written on paper whether they had punctuation or not. No hypothesis is given for the disparity, but it’s possible that because the use of a period in ending a one-word text response appears out of the norm these days (while it remains fairly common to do so on paper), the students are more suspicious of the authenticity of the text sender’s response.