Text like a teen: Drop the period!!!

Oct 14, 2016


Texting has become a dominant means of communication in today’s interconnected world.

Some reports suggest that large swaths of Americans prefer it to talking on their phone.

If you count yourself among the 97% of Americans who send at least one text every day, it might be time to take another look at your texting etiquette. According to University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan, there’s a chance you’re doing it all wrong.

“You need to be careful,” Curzan said. “There’s stuff going on with punctuation in texting. It is getting repurposed … and the period has come to be seen as serious, if not a little bit angry.”

She explained that it all has to do with the fact that texting lacks all the context of the spoken language. You can’t hear a person’s tone or see their expression or body language. Without these cues, savvy texters are turning to punctuation to make themselves understood.

Curzan told us the more neutral way to end a text is not with a period, but with no punctuation at all.

“What we’re seeing here is that the written language needs to be adapted to deal with texting,” she said.

“The important point here is that it’s not chaos,” Curzan assured us.

“I think for those of us who are trying to figure out these conventions, we can say, ‘These young people don’t know how to use punctuation.’ But in fact, they do know how to use punctuation, they’re just using it in a different way from the way we learned to do it. In fact, for young texters, they use punctuation one way when they’re texting, and another way when they’re doing formal writing for school. They know how to switch it up.”

(Subscribe to the Stateside podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or with this RSS link)