Text with period at the end.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

Punctuation is an extremely important part of text communication, and I’m not talking about grammar. You may think a simple period is the correct way to end a message, but it can mean a lot more than you realize.

You’ve probably experienced the difficulty of conveying emotion in text conversations. Emoji can help with that, but so can the punctuation and formatting you use. One of the most powerful punctuation marks in text messaging is the humble period.

The End. Period.

Punctuation has a couple of different purposes. The first is for formatting—without periods and commas, we’d have large blocks of text with no starts and stops. The second is for setting the tone—question marks and exclamation points tell us how a sentence sounds.

The latter is what often comes into play with text messaging. Messages that end with different punctuation marks—especially a period—can have decidedly different tones. Here’s the same message with three different endings:

  • “We should talk!”
  • “We should talk”
  • “We should talk.”

The exclamation point makes it sound like the person is excited to talk with you. No punctuation at the end is very casual—could be good, could be bad, could be nothing. The message with the period at the end is very abrupt. It sounds almost rude or like something serious needs to be discussed.

What’s Wrong With a Period?

You may be wondering when a grammatically correct period at the end of a sentence started to mean “I’m mad at you.” It’s all about the informal nature of text communication.

See, texting is different than email. While it’s certainly possible to have quick back-and-forth conversations over email, it’s intended to be more like its namesake—letters sent in the mail. That’s why we still use formal salutations and signatures.

Texting, on the other hand, is more like an in-person conversation. It’s much more informal, which is why people tend to text with less punctuation than they would use in an email. Over time, using punctuation in text messaging has been seen as an “extra step.”

For example, someone might think the person in the messages above could have said “We should talk” without the period, but they deliberately chose to put a period at the end. Now they’re thinking: “Why did they do that? What’s wrong?”

Context Matters

At the end of the day, it’s really the context that matters most in issues surrounding how we communicate with text. The situation mentioned above doesn’t happen if the person always ends messages with a period. However, if that’s out of character, the alarm bells start ringing.

That’s what’s important to keep in mind when you’re sending and receiving text messages. Everyone has their own personal way of speaking, and that comes through in the text too. Language is a big, messy thing that we’re all trying to use in a million different ways. Sometimes a period is just a period, but sometimes it’s much more.

RELATED: Yes, Emoji Have Multiple Meanings Too

Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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