We all know it's a slippery slope when you—on your own or with a little help from your friends—start parsing texts for hidden meaning. Not only is it tough to gauge tone through text, you can ascribe all sorts of nuance to emojis, too. But it turns out that one of the most offending things you can send via text message is perhaps the most unlikely of them all—the unassuming period.
A study conducted by Celia Klin, an associate professor of psychology and associate dean at Binghamton University, which was recently published in Computers in Human Behavior, found that subjects perceived a message to be more insincere when a period was used.
Klin and her research team asked 126 undergrads—91 women and 35 men—at the college to look at the same conversations as both text conversations and handwritten notes. Sixteen of the exchanges were questions and the reply was one word -- "Okay," "Sure," "Yeah," or "Yup."
The students were given two different responses, one that ended with a period and one without. They were then asked to rank the response's sincerity. The text message replies that ended with a period were rated as less sincere than the ones that did not. However, that wasn't the case when the message was written out.
In a statement from the university, the professor noted that short of being able to read body language and inflection like you would in an IRL conversation, it seems that punctuation and well-placed emoji's are the best we've got to understand nuance when it comes to texting.
"Punctuation is used and understood by texters to convey emotions and other social and pragmatic information," Klin says. "It’s not surprising that as texting evolves, people are finding ways to convey the same types of information."
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