Texting may be rife with abbreviations, contracted words and emojis, but don’t be tempted into using proper grammar, a new study warns. Researchers at Binghamton University, New York, claim that text messages ending with a period are perceived less sincere than those that don’t. 

In the study, 126 Binghamton undergraduates were asked to read several message conversations — correspondences that contained questions with affirmative one-word responses. For example, the query “Dave gave me his extra tickets. Wanna come?” was succeeded with a one-word reply like “Okay,” “Sure,”“Yeah" and “Yup”—  with or without a period. 

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According to the researchers, the exchanges that ended in punctuation were deemed less sincere than those without, citing how in online communication, periods, semi-colons and commas are utilized in expressing emotions such as sarcasm or mild aggression, sentiments that can be misjudged in succinct writing.

“Punctuation is used and understood by texters to convey emotions and other social information,” April Drumm-Hewitt, assistant professor of psychology at Simpson College, Binghamton University, and co-author of the study, told Metro. “In real conversations people easily convey emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions and so on. People can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting so they seem to rely on what they have —  things such as punctuation —  to mimic speech sounds.”

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In light of their findings, the research team at Binghamton exercises caution in perceiving email messages too, as grammar continues to evolve in online communication. “Be careful about not getting offended easily over email because tone of voice is hard to judge,” Drumm-Hewitt added. “Don’t get immediately offended if you get a text that seems terse. The person who wrote it may not have meant it that way.”

Preliminary findings by Binghamton on their next case survey suggest that the use of an exclamation mark may make the content of the message appear even more sincere than a message bereft of punctuation.

– By Dmitry Belyaev