Texting is shifting the meaning of punctuation.
The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry. I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce “I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.”
Say you find yourself limping to the finish of a wearing workday. You text your girlfriend: “I know we made a reservation for your bday tonight but wouldn’t it be more romantic if we ate in instead?” If she replies,
we could do that
Then you can ring up Papa John’s and order something special. But if she replies,
we could do that.
Then you should probably drink a cup of coffee: You’re either going out or you’re eating Papa John’s alone.
I haven’t been told that my text message punctuation or lack thereof conveys inadvertent tones, but I have wondered if my peers without unlimited texting plans hate my use of the single line. Instead of periods, I hit return and text the next line. I do this when I want to separate a thought but don’t want my texts to seem like APA-style academic dissertations. When I text my friends, I try to convey the very casual timber of our face-to-face conversations. Periods and correct written grammar impede that effort.
Language purists, who I guarantee you are NOT language experts, are at this very moment trying to unbunch their briefs. they can chill. Spoken language didn’t change much in the advent of written language, and formally written language will not change much in light of texting. Room exists for many different uses of the typed word. We need not mourn the death of all that holds our culture aloft.