Full stop to finish a text sends insincerity

Putting a full stop at the end of a text message conveys to the person receiving it that you lack sincerity, says a study by academics.

Conversely, putting an exclamation point to finish off the text is interpreted as “more rather than less sincere,” found research by New York’s Binghamton University.

In more than a dozen experiments led by the university’s Celia Klin, volunteers read short exchanges in which the response either did or did not have a sentence ending in either punctuation mark.

When the exchanges appeared as text messages, the responses that ended with a full stop - or period - were rated as less sincere than those that did not end with a full-stop.

Interestingly for any workers who use post-it notes in the office, or for those who like to communicate via the pigeon post, no such difference was found for handwritten notes.

“When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on,” said Klin.

“People obviously can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting. Thus, it makes sense that texters rely on what they have available to them”.

She pointed to not just punctuation as a mechanism that mobile users are relying on, but also to emoticons and deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds.

As to the exclamation mark at the end of a text giving the recipient the impression of added sincerity on the sender’s part, Klin believes the finding is “not surprising”.

“It broadens our claim,” she said. “Punctuation is used and understood by texters to convey emotions and other social and pragmatic information.

“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.”

The study, "Texting insincerely: the role of the periodintext messaging," has been published in Computers in Human Behavior.


17th December 2015

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