Your good grammar makes you look like a jerk in texts, study confirms

Confession time: I’ve always been the kind of person to write out text messages with good grammar, full punctuation and certainly never any txtspk. I’ve always known this makes me seem stuffy and out-of-time, but it’s actually worse than that: a new study has revealed it also makes me look like a total jerk.

The study, “Texting insincerely: The role of the period in text messaging”, looked specifically at ending text messages with full stops. While a full stop concluding a text message is often viewed with the subtext of “I’m angry with you” in texting circles, killjoy pedants like me simply mean “this is where the sentence ends”. Unfortunately for me, it turns out the majority of the population are in the former group, with most of the 126 participants reporting that the messages closed with a full stop seemed less sincere than those left unfinished.

What’s interesting here – other than that anyone would seek to study this phenomenon – is that the same messages didn’t have these undertones in handwritten communications, suggesting that digital messages are adopting their own set of grammatical rules and subtexts.

“Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations. When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on,” explains lead researcher Celia Klin, associate professor of psychology at Binghamton University’s Harpur College.text_message_grammar_study

“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 – emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and, according to our data, punctuation.”

It gets worse though, pedants. Brace yourself. In follow-up research yet to be published, exclamation marks on the end of messages make them seem more sincere. “That’s not surprising, but it broadens our claim,” says Klin.

“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.”

Cheer up though, grammar purists. This argument is as old as time… well, it’s at least 27 years old anyway. Take it away, Elaine:

READ THIS NEXT: How the internet is changing our language and grammar

Images: Janet Galore and Senado Federal used under Creative Commons

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