In the latest bout of ‘did someone really need to put time and effort into this?’, scientists have claimed that people who send messages with full stops are insincere and, I presume, criminals.
Okay, the last bit isn’t true, the use of punctuation is probably no different among law abiders than among criminals – although nobody has studied that, yet, to be fair.
Celia Klin and her team of researchers at Binghamton University in New York did, however, show a bunch of different text messages to people, with most feeling the use of a full stop at the end of a one-word response lacked sincerity.
So, the next time someone texts you asking ‘Would you like to go for a dog walk with me, and maybe I’ll give you €20,000 from my lotto winnings?’, don’t dare say ‘Sure.’, for they will disown you quicker than it takes to eat a Malteser.
Klin noted that the limitations within which texts operate, in comparison to our theatrical use of speech, means that things like smileys and punctuation garner enhanced meaning.
Full stops no – Exclamation marks yes
It actually turns out that, should your friend offer you €20,000, via text, you are better served saying ‘Sure!’ as, for no apparent reason, Klin’s team found that a text response with an exclamation mark is interpreted as more, rather than less, sincere.
“That’s not surprising, but it broadens our claim,” said Klin, with her research published in Computers in Human Behaviour. “Punctuation is used and understood by texters to convey emotions and other social and pragmatic information.
“Given that people are wonderfully adept at communicating complex and nuanced information in conversations, it’s not surprising that, as texting evolves, people are finding ways to convey the same types of information in their texts.”
What is not clear, though, is what effect typos have on people. A quick straw poll in our office shows that this is a far more grievous offence. So, if someone from Silicon Republic ever asks you, over text, if you want a big bag of cash, don’t respond with ‘Shure’. We won’t pay out.