I Swear I’m Not Mad. The Power of Punctuation

Punctuation and the lack thereof is a concept we have become very familiar with as we have learned and begun to conquer each social media platform. Instagram captions are expected to be brief, Twitter limits us to 140 precious characters and our snaps appear across someone’s screen for only a matter of seconds. We have no time or patience for punctuation, giving new meaning to the brief times we do utilize punctuation in casual exchanges such as texts or instant messages.

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The period. A simple dot ending a sentence that has somehow transformed into a conversation ending, affirmative and denouncing ball of fury. The period began as a naïve, innocent and “neutral way to mark a pause or complete a thought,” as according to the article The Period is Pissed.  However, through the brevity that is promoted by the majority of social media platforms, people have become more and more inclined to write as they speak. We want our messages to come off as fluid and a continuous conversation; by leaving out a period we are able to promote a conversation as we would while speaking to someone verbally. The use of periods turned instead into line breaks and separated texts to encourage the recipient to respond to the sender. To appear more engaging, without introducing the potential risk of adding a period and having the receiver misinterpret it as final, or the end of that conversation.

As I mentioned earlier, the article also references how periods are no longer efficient. It is two extra buttons to press before sending a text. Simply sending a text saves you additional milliseconds, a significant amount of time in the instant messaging and texting world. Due to this growing period-less trend, people have begun to add additional meaning to a period within statements. The period turned angry. Instead of conveying an inquisitive or curious tone as a question mark might, or a thrilled and engaged tone as produced by exclamation points, the period stands alone as the conclusion, giving off the tone of finality. Because of their infrequent use, people, including myself, have begun to interpret that single dot as a sign of frustration. Someone took those additional milliseconds to prove a point to you in that they are done with this conversation and they are not pleased. Honestly, they have become quite a thing to fear. To test this theory, I decided to begin using this attention craving punctuation mark in a conversation with my boyfriend. What started as a joyful bit regarding getting Chipotle after class, quickly turned into something quite hilarious from my end, but unnerving on his side.

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Although I admit to be an abuser of the exclamation point, it was interesting to see just how quickly my unsuspecting boyfriend turned that little dot at the end of my statements into an emotional breakdown I might have been having regarding my anger with getting Chipotle.

The article also explains the alternative meanings we have given to other forms of punctuation, one that truly stuck out to me being the exclamation point. It was stated that they no longer simply convey excitement, but also sincerity. It is as if writing a text means you need to add something extra to demonstrate that you are being truthful and honest, something I have find myself performing frequently. These additional meanings to grammatical marks we have known for the majority of our lives demonstrate just how quickly we are shying away from and forgetting their realistic meanings. While periods, for now, encompass that last and final straw we may reference when arguing or displeased, maybe years from now it will once again be crafted and shaped by the platforms we use. Maybe it will surpass the sincerity of an exclamation point or confused excitement of the question mark/exclamation point combo…we can only wait to type.

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Sources:

Crair, Ben. “The Period Is Pissed.” New Republic. 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.    <https://newrepublic.com/article/115726/period-our-simplest-punctuation-mark-has-become-sign-anger&gt;.

“Tv GIF – Find & Share on GIPHY.” GIPHY. N.p., 28 Mar. 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2017. <http://giphy.com/gifs/parks-and-recreation-yes-amy-poehler-14joII5lDkkVUc&gt;.

“When Did the Period Get so Angry?” Man Repeller. Web. 31 Jan. 2017. <http://www.manrepeller.com/best_of_internet/when-did-the-period-get-so-angry.html&gt;.

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2 thoughts on “I Swear I’m Not Mad. The Power of Punctuation

  1. Your post was great! I definitely agree with the “angry period” theory and have witnessed it in my life daily. Another thing that came to mind when reading your post were just the social norms in general that have formed around our texting shorthand. My friends and I always joke about how our parents don’t understand the “angry period” or the “K” when texting. It really has become an unspoken rule that anyone within the same age range as you is expected to follow these rules, whereas our parents’ generation are exempt from this. Never would my mother question that something was wrong if I used a period at the end of sentence or if I replied to something she said with a simple “K”. On the other hand, if I were texting a friend of mine using those same replies, they would immediately pick up on the angry signal that I was sending them.

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  2. Emily,

    Thank you for your blog post. Abby had a similar topic and stance in her blog post as well. It is true, if you add a period to the end of a text message, there is a good chance that the person receiving the text will think something is wrong. It is crazy how over the past decade the period has become associated with hostility when used in an informal conversation. While I think the period is important, and I use it on and off when texting, I do understand why some people think it may be obsolete when texting. This is because people often text in stream of thought, and break up sentences by sending them in separate texts. My friends often poke fun at me for using proper grammar in my text messages, but I find it helpful when trying to convey how I feel via text.

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