Modern technology makes navigating standard punctuation guidelines tricky

Category:  Opinions
Friday, October 18th, 2019 at 11:00 AM

Texting has been a big part of people’s daily lives for a long time now. It is completely different than what it used to be when it was first introduced. Sentences are shorter, words are abbreviated and punctuation is no longer a thing. People have now started reading deeper into a text's meaning. It no longer just means whatever was sent to you.

If someone does not respond right away to your text, it all of a sudden means that they do not want to talk to you. Or they are with someone better. People’s minds go in many different directions when they do not get a response. Results of a 2016 Common Sense Media Report found that 50% of teens feel addicted to mobile devices.

Another thing that has changed in the texting world is how we see paragraphs. If someone receives a paragraph-long text, you know they did something wrong. Teenagers do not send paragraphs when they are texting; it is much shorter. And if there is more than a 30-second pause between responses when you're having a good conversation with someone, then you know you messed up.

There is nothing worse than when you're texting someone and you reply with sarcasm, and then they take that as you are mad at them. You cannot read sarcasm in a text. It's not plain as day. There is bound to be an argument or someone’s feelings will get hurt. Has anyone ever texted you in all caps? An argument has been started when you receive that all capital text. That is how someone yells in a text.

Another way people can come off angry in a text is by using a period. Are you ever in the middle of texting someone, or just send a short text, and you get a response with a period?

People have started taking punctuation as an angry tone. A period does not just mean the end of the sentence. It now comes off as the sender not being happy with what your text or response was. They are seen as an aggressive way of ending a text. I text my grandma all the time, and when she ends a sentence in a period, I take offense. It so commonly comes off as negative; it's how I take it now, even from my grandma. I know she has no idea it's seen as aggressive, but I just think, "oh boy, I am going to be in trouble when I get home."

The period comes off as rejection, too. I have had friends that will get a text after a date, and it has a period. All of a sudden, they believe the other person did not have fun. Especially if it comes in a double text. Ending sentences without punctuation has almost become its own addiction. Sentences without punctuation make it look like you're going to continue a conversation even when you most definitely are not (except if the sender send a "K," as that conversation is most definitely over).

Even sentences with exclamation points seem like a lot. They can come off as someone being very upset, but obviously context matters. Just imagine getting that "OH MY GOD!" text; it comes off way more "in-your-face" than it should.

It often feels like the question mark is the only safe and nonaggressive punctuation mark. It is very rare that teenagers or young adults use punctuation. According to a New Republic article, "An American University study of college students’ texting and instant messaging habits found they only used sentence-final punctuation 39 percent of the time in texts and 45 percent of the time in online chats."

As soon as someone uses a period, the responder is trying to figure out why they are sending periods. They stop paying attention to the actual response. It can mark the end of a conversation, so the responder spends time thinking whether they should keep up conversation or not. A lot of people only see it as a period. It is — I will give that to you. But to many others, it means so much more. No one has any clue why a period means so much nowadays.

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