“It’s fine.” – The Period

Somewhere along the way, we collectively decided that the period is bad. It means we are uninterested and upset, even when we are simply ending a sentence. So, we banned the period from the digital realm, but we welcome emojis, ellipses, and an overload of exclamation points in its place.

Text messages are meant to be conversational, but apparently not grammatically correct. We’ve grown accustomed to ignoring punctuation and welcoming run-on sentences. As soon as a period is thrown into the mix, the receiver understands that the conversation, or even the relationship, is in jeopardy. But is it really? The digital realm is made up of short sentences. There are rarely long conversations through text message, unless it’s a late night vent session with your best friend, or you both, somehow, happen to have free time at the exact same time. Twitter and Instagram aren’t welcoming to long conversations. So that leaves Facebook. Facebook: the digital home of our mothers, aunts, and grandmothers who want to have long(er) conversations. It is okay to use periods on Facebook. Other than this one medium, both short sentences and run on run wild. However, short sentences usually indicate a lack of interest in the conversation. One statement made in Ben Crair’s “The Period is Pissed,” points out that leaving sentences without punctuation feels as though the conversation is welcome to be continued, even if neither party wants it to keep going. Is this because we are afraid of short sentences? The period makes the disinterest real, and we do not want to believe that message is being conveyed through the conversation. A period ends the conversation by pointing out the short sentence and highlighting the disinterest between parties.

We are busy people. Even if you aren’t, your friends might be. How do you find time to have a long conversation with a friend if you have conflicting downtime? You get lucky, and then the run-on sentences start rolling. Is excitement another reason for the lack of punctuation? Based on my personal typing habits, my conversations are a mix of short sentences separated by line breaks (not punctuation), and something very similar to this:


We often blame our devices for miscommunication, but what if the miscommunication really was our own fault? We cannot see the facial expressions or hear the voice inflections of the sender through our devices, making it complicated to understand the tone of voice he or she wished to use to deliver the message. Punctuation is vital to slimming down these problems. So why did we drop the grammatically correct punctuation? The period can be a bland punctuation mark. It does not convey emotion or vocal inflection the way that the exclamation point or the question mark do. Perhaps this is why we adopted the “…”, “???”, “!!!”, “~”, and many, many emojis. These markers help the receiver see what we feel. We message as a conversation, not as a letter, so we want to insert our emotion within that conversation.  If I use “???,” I either want the reader to understand that I am very confused. Not just a little confused. Very confused.When I use “~” before and after a word, I want the reader to picture Spongebob saying that word while dancing.


But with all of this punctuation confusion, how do we know how to read the messages? For example, if someone replies “k,” they are angry. If someone says, “I’m fine,” they’re not fine (this one makes me the most frustrated, because really, I am fine). If a period adds intensity to a sentence, what does it do for these two assumptions? What does it mean when someone replies with “k.” rather than “k”? What does it mean when someone replies with “I’m fine.” rather than “I’m fine”?

Are we stuck with these ~confusing~ digital communication rules for the rest of our lives???



Bennett, Jessica. “When Your Punctuation Says It All (!)”. Nytimes.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 31 Jan. 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/style/when-your-punctuation-says-it-all.html?ref=oembed

Crair, Ben. “The Period Is Pissed”. New Republic. N.p., 2017. Web. 31 Jan. 2017. https://newrepublic.com/article/115726/period-our-simplest-punctuation-mark-has-become-sign-anger

“German_Shrimpy.” iFunny. N.p., N.d., Web. 31 Jan. 2017. https://ifunny.co/fun/n7DwY8zr3?gallery=tag&query=kevinjonas

“Spongebob Excited Gif.” Tenor. N.p., N.d., Web. 31 Jan. 2017. https://www.tenor.co/view/dance-gifstory-gif-4103943



2 thoughts on ““It’s fine.” – The Period

  1. What makes this article as well as your response to its contents so interesting is the fact that it’s undeniably true. However, it’s not something that we necessarily think about on a conscious level. When I send a text, I typically write exactly what I’m thinking as quickly as I can, then send. I do not explicitly ask myself: ” Is an exclamation point too expressive? That period at the end of my sentence seems really harsh.” Yet there is a noticeable absence of periods among my text correspondences. I am, on the other hand, acutely aware of the punctuation patterns of others – especially when they do not match this new “norm.” Just last week, my friend and I were discussing our manager at work. We both agreed that while she always appears friendly, bubbly, and outgoing in person, her texts in our employee group chat seem blunt and angry. We could not figure out why, especially because after these texts were sent, she’d continue to greet us during our next shift in her typical friendly demeanor. After scrolling through conversions, we finally came to a conclusion. If an employee texted the group, “Would anyone be willing to take my shift??? I’m feeling sick…I’ll make it up to whoever takes it next week!” she would respond, “Sure, I’ll take it.” The contrast felt alarming, although it was only punctuation to blame. It’s interesting how we’ve attributed a certain “tone” to various symbols as a way to make these texting conversations more expressive.


  2. Abby,

    Thanks for your blog post. As a writing major I am constantly frustrated by the lack of language structure in the digital realm. I feel like I am one of the few people who still use proper grammar while texting, and honestly it makes me sad. The English language is so specific, that even the choice of whether or not to use a comma, can change the entire meaning of a sentence. I think because people type more often then they talk face to face, they are forced to try and find emotion through a two-word text. People do not take the time to explain themselves via text/messaging, and therefore we depend greatly on the end point to explain the tone of the message—we don’t have body language to depend on, or changes in the voice, and much more. I think it is important that people begin to pay attention to their grammar again in informal messaging, if we practice this then hopefully we will have less moments trying to figure what a text means.


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