Periods. What Are They Good For.

If you use TikTok, have children who have cell phones, or follow basically any youngin’ on social media, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about when I say: my generation does not use periods. Unless, of course, we say, “Period!” But usually we punctuate that with an exclamation mark.

More often than not, people my age opt to completely leave out any type of punctuation at the end of texts or tweets, especially short messages, because there’s no need to punctuate if there’s only one sentence, you can just send the message and that counts as the ending point. In addition, Twitter has a character limit, and why waste a character on a period?

I can absolutely confirm without a doubt that everyone my age for some reason thinks that periods are passive-aggressive as hell and if you use one in a text you must be mad about something, or upset with the person you’re sending it to. You just sound… so angry. I can’t explain where this logic came from, but we all hear it the same way. Periods mean you’re unhappy. When you send a sentence with a period, you are sending a clear-cut statement that has a finite end, so it must be about something serious.

If a message contains multiple sentences that need to be divided with a period, usually we just opt for hitting enter/return and starting a new line, or we use a fuck-ton of commas and make paragraphs of run on sentences, which is actually an issue for me when I write formal things (like these blog posts) because my dad has to edit my super long sentences and chop them up into normal sentences.

Alternatively to starting a new line, we take double texting to the extreme by sending multiple messages in rapid succession. We will finish one sentence or one thought, and send it, and then type another and send it immediately after, and do that about five or six times in a row until you have multiple completely different texts that blow up your phone.

On top of all this, I text like I talk, and I talk speedy as heck. I don’t really breathe between sentences or pause at all, so it makes sense that my texts would read like one really fast, long sentence that has no clear end or breaks.

If you text like this, “Hello. Pick up cabbages from the store. Don’t forget the meeting is at seven.” Sure, it looks normal, but it also looks rude. The aggressive capitalization, the harsh periods, it’s just so mean looking!

Periods are something you use to be concise, passive-aggressive, harsh, petty, or all of the above. And, of course, I’m not saying that any of you are wrong for using them, or that you intend to come across this way. I’m just expressing how most people my age see these things. Linguistic differences between generations is ever-changing, and even more so with technology and social media defining our communication with each other.

So, if you see the whippersnappers out on their Razor Scooters wearing Silly Bandz and not using periods, please understand that we aren’t trying to be grammatically incorrect, it’s just a tone thing! We are still fully capable of using them when we need to. It’s just generally that amongst each other we prefer to keep it casual and friendly.

Have a great day.

(See how angry it looks compared to “Have a great day!”)

-AMS

118 Comments on “Periods. What Are They Good For.”

  1. Okay, I read the headline and thought this was going to be about female reproductive physiology and I was already nodding along.

    Then I started reading, and, being an old fart, I was a little lost…

    Of course, I’ve been known to eschew the full stop in favor of the ellipse far too often for correct usage, so who am I to carp about “kids today”?

  2. You might have already heard of it, but Internet Linguist Gretchen Mcculloch has a whole chapter in her book about internet language (mostly but not only English)
    If you’re curious about linguistic analysis of the phenomenon, give it a read!

    https://gretchenmcculloch.com/book/

  3. Heheheheh. Whatsiname from the other thread, who tried to mansplain exclamation points to you and got malleted? Properly told off. Well done.

  4. Stopped my 17yr. old daughter and asked her this very thing.

    Can confirm that periods mean anger to them. She said she only uses proper punctuation when speaking to me or her mother.

    This blows my mind.

    There are rules, people! This is anarchy!

  5. My son is two years younger than you, and he regularly texts full paragraphs, broken up into grammatically correct sentences — not just to me, but to his best friends. His friends vary in their punctuation habits, but they all accept that’s just who is. (They might also blame me, but if so, they haven’t said so to me.)

    Fortunately, he’s the only one of that age I text with regularly, so neither of us have to change our habits. :)

  6. makes me think wordpress is geared towards old people since you have to enter your email address (really? who actually reads their email?) and name before you can post Every. Single. Time.

    so oldsters would use line breaks (which are available in ios too) in their texting and thoughting, like i’m doing now

    since I’m an oldster

    for a generation (gen z – which I DON’T LIKE that name.) that uses punctuation to make emojis it’s no surprise that the period has taken on more implication than oldsters would attribute to it

    i’m waiting for the comma ellipsis ,,, the double parenthesis (( )) and other even more nuanced usages of punctuation to come forward

    maybe my kid’s kids ((your kids)),,,

    have a great day

  7. Huh. I’m only 31, but I still end (almost) all my text messages with periods. Now I’m going to go through my text messages and see how my friends and family end their messages… I’m probably the outlier!

  8. @chris shorb

    You could make a user account and log in. Then it will remember your name and email address.

    As for reading email? I do. All of my updates and notifications come through email.

    I don’t pay attention to it on any kind of priority basis. Anyone contacting me is going to get the same turn around time for email or text: about four hours.

  9. I won’t throw stones in this particular glass house as I’m guilty of forgetting to use that punctuation mark myself, old fart that I am

    However, I draw the line at using possessive S for plural S. Please. Get. That. One. Right!

    :-)

  10. I’m in my late 30’s and have a 14-year-old. The day it dawned on me that the period was read as aggression was initially bewildering, but as soon as I saw it, I /felt/ it and fell into a rabbit hole of reading linguistic analysis.

    These days I’ve fallen into the habit of either sending messages in succession with no periods (just like I would on, say, AIM or IRC ages ago) or using periods in all of the sentences /except/ the last one. I only do this for informal chatting, though, and can code switch fairly well to a more ‘formal’ style, depending on my audience. I may have dropped the period with no effort, but I’ll never stop abusing commas

    Brains!

  11. Could this be an artifact of texting? Texting (on cellphone) is a pain. Punctuation is doubly difficult. So it would take extra effort to do punctuation, and there must be a reason (anger?) to justify the effort. Still I like punctuation.

  12. In texting, or any messaging app, I still cling to punctuation…I’ll even stretch sentences to soften them if need be (“Pick up cabbages from the store, please!”), but my punctuation is still there. I may even have a comma addiction.

    Anyway, where I do get lazy is capitalization. It might be a reflection of my mood or just general energy level, but often when texting with close friends & loved ones, I just drop capital letters entirely. Perfectly punctuated sentences, hopefully decent grammar – just no caps. So, yeah…no stones from me.

  13. Where I work, I am the “old guy” at 52. There are 9 of us, 5 of whom are my son’s age or younger. My manager is in his 30’s and created a group text to pass along important information. What drives me out of my gourd is his tendency to type a sentence, hit “enter” and type the next sentence in a new text. My phone goes off like an alarm clock. Since we usually work together, I see him burning up the screen on his phone with his thumbs and ask him to tell me when he’s done so I can read his completed message. (For those of you paying attention, I do not apologize for the double space after my periods. It’s how I learned to type in the ’80’s and I’m too old to care to try and change.)

  14. I’m old, apparently, since I don’t understand how capitalization can be aggressive, or punctuation can be hostile. Receiving a series of lower-case phrases with no punctuation in a multiple-text flurry makes me feel like I’m talking to Dory from Finding Nemo. And now I’m seeing writing like that in emails, articles, and reports. Huge, run-on sentences that are what would otherwise be considered a paragraph, but with all the periods except the last one removed, and the rest replaced with commas. It is as annoying as other people seem to find capitalization and periods, so I guess we’re even.

  15. David Hajicek:

    Could this be an artifact of texting? Texting (on cellphone) is a pain. Punctuation is doubly difficult. So it would take extra effort to do punctuation, and there must be a reason (anger?) to justify the effort. Still I like punctuation.

    Oh, absolutely! Every medium forms its own grammar. Modern texting has nothing on early telegraphs – where every character cost money. And in the modern era, I’ll bet there’s been shifts as we moved from 10-key phone keypads to full on-screen keyboards, to swipe and predictive text. Each technology undoubtedly leaves an impression.

  16. Takes so little time to hit the spacebar twice (try it) and it let’s others think that you might be literate.

    Then again, I’m an older fart, don’t communicate with kids, for the most part, and use email (but not Twitter, Instagram, or any other anti-social media).

    Now you need to do a post on folks who should know better, misusing personal pronouns. Or is that another I-don’t-give-fuck subject?

  17. Fascinating! Thanks for the explanation.

    I just opened up my texts and found that none of my three grandsons has been finishing their texts with periods, and they seldom use periods to end sentences inside a paragraph. Never noticed.

    I’m still so 19th-century with my grammar that I almost took another player off my friend list when he wrote “imma fly my lootz to Jita u wanna scout for me”.

  18. Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.

    If you enjoy linguistics, you GOTTA read Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch. There’s a great discussion of the evolution of this convention.

    (I’m your dad’s age and punctuate my texts, yes. *grin* My son, a little older than you, has yet to complain. I’m pointing him to this article to open a dialog.)

  19. I’m 43, and this is how I operate… I like ellipses, obv., because they sound in my head much less… like what you said.

  20. I (old Millennial) don’t mind using periods after long sentences in texting, or hear them as hostile, but I definitely do with short ones unless I know the person well enough to be sure that it doesn’t mean anything.

    Just yesterday one of the people I deal with at work made a somewhat annoying/territorial demand that I couldn’t turn down. I answered “Okay.” and then spent five minutes wondering if she was going to go complain to my boss about my attitude. :P

  21. If I’m understanding correctly, the most polite thing to do is to send messages in the form most welcome and best understood by the recipient. That would suggest that when and older and a younger are texting, the older should leave out periods knowing that the younger will see them as passive-aggressive; and conversely, the younger should include periods, knowing that the older would see their absence as sloppy and lazy. Do you agree?

  22. OK this was very useful to me. Everyone under 40 who messages me on Teams does this thing where they separate each sentence with Enter. I wondered why they were doing this. I’m an old guy so I still type two spaces after each period. Appreciate the explanation.

  23. Oh, dear. My past as a copy editor is warring with my love of modern linguistics here. (Not to mention: I now teach English in high school, which means I have to require punctuation and capitalization, and otherwise assume the persona of Old Crotchety Person.

    I think, though, that modern texting might help students connect with… wait for it… poetry. Because poetry plays with punctuation (or the lack thereof) for effect. (In fact, I might use this blog post with my students this year! Thanks!)

  24. This boomer appreciates your excellent explanation of the period issue. Having spent an insane amount of time explaining the SHOUTING dilemma to those of my age and older, I will use your information wisely and with vigor!

  25. Wow, I did not know this is a thing. I teach middle school English, so I’m usually focusing on traditional punctuation. And I’m an old lady teacher now, so I’m not as hip to what the youngsters are doing as I was when I first started teaching. But this certainly explains why my students don’t punctuate their emails. I definitely think there’s room for both styles in my class.

  26. Interesting! I think the fact that unadorned periods seem angry is why I use a lot of exclamation points and smiley-face emoticons in my texts, just so I can “properly” punctuate without seeming, you know, unfriendly. :-)

    The topic of how technology affects the way we write reminds me of Don Marquis’s character Archy (or “archy”), a free verse poet reincarnated as a cockroach who would come into Marquis’s office at night and type (jumping as hard as he could on the manual typewriter’s keys) poems and “autobiographical” sketches. However, because he couldn’t press the shift key, the resulting manuscripts lacked capitals; thus, his work was signed “archy” and not “Archy”. Wonder what Marquis and Archy/archy would make of a cell phone….

  27. 1. This is terrible news. But, then again, maybe texts were never meant to be full sentences.

    2. @birdistheword: Let’s eat. Grandma.

    3. Bring back the interrobang; it will solve all of this chicanery, e.g.

    Let’s eat grandma [interrobang here]

    4. Seriously. INTERROBANG. Its time has come. Unite, one and all.

  28. It makes sense to leave out periods while texting. The purpose of a period is to indicate the end of a complete thought. Each text box serves the same purpose. I don’t like it, but I can see how it originates.

    With that said, (*puts on professor hat*) it bugs me when students send e-mails that are written like a text message.

  29. Huh. So, as someone straddling between gen x and millennials, who didn’t own a cell phone until I was in my mid-20s (and it was an actual PHONE with some walkie talkie capabilities- not a pocket computer that could also make calls) I’m firmly in the “use the effin period people! Were you raised by wolves?!” camp, but I’m also not a total authoritarian about it either, mainly because I’m lazy and think other people have a right to be lazy too. My husband IS a Gen Xer and his work has him scheduling and interacting with clients almost exclusively thru (see, lazy) text or IM on social media platforms. I know he struggles mightily with the younglings communication skills at times, and the use of run on sentences is a particular point of confusion, frustration, and anger from him. He recently responded to an inquiry from a young person who was seeking a job with just a single word -NO. Because he was so frustrated with the run on, stream-of-conscience request he received via email. This does shed light on how the kids these days are trying to talk to us. I guess a lot of them will continue to assume we’re all angry all the time, in my husband’s case it’s often true – he’s angry you didn’t bother with punctuation and he thinks you’re being rude and wasting his time by forcing him to decipher your vague and confusing correspondence.

  30. Wow, I had no idea. Good thing I usually only text people around my age/your dad’s age or older. <—not angry!

    (For those of you who mention putting two spaces after the period here, don't worry WordPress is getting rid of the extra one for you.)

  31. I am fascinated and astounded to learn this. I don’t text (don’t even own a cell phone, in fact), and I just honestly never realized that anyone would find a full-stop punctuation mark off-putting. I feel as though I should start adding an obligatory disclaimer any time I write anything that could be read by someone younger than 30 – “I’m not mad, just old” – lest I cause offense with my punctuation usage.

    The other thing that I find fascinating is that this epiphany explains something that I found a bit puzzling about your public demeanor, Athena. A significant percentage of the (excellent) photos your dad takes of you and shares here show you with a very serious, even stern, expression. Which is perfectly fine, I must emphasize! Not everyone likes to smile when a camera is aimed at them, and there is no obligation or expectation that you in particular will do so.

    But when I read your commentary here, it is always peppered with exclamation marks, which come across to me as very upbeat and happy and enthusiastic. That’s great, and I truly enjoy reading your work, but it always seemed as though your written voice was a bit at odds with the way you present in the photos your dad posts. So this discussion about generational differences in punctuation choices is very enlightening on many levels.

    Thanks for enlightening us codgers, Athena, and especially for the kind way in which you do so! (See, I was paying attention!)

  32. As for why punctuation is considered “passive aggressive”, it is because using punctuation reminds the other that they are not using punctuation. In other words, it implies that the other is sloppy and lazy (as has been suggested). If this prickles, it must mean that the other feels that there is a grain of truth to that, instead of accepting we all can do as we wish. As some people say, “it’s all good.”

  33. athena has a good point, most periods capitalisation and punctuation are pointless, lets all just stop using them, after all who cares about the difference between Charles wedding and Charless wedding ever since eb white and william strunk jr died? nobody full stop

    (I might have exaggerated just a wee bit for comic effect.)

  34. I enjoyed your explanation, but what I couldn’t figure out is why your headline didn’t end with a question mark? For the more ‘formal’ writing of a blog post (as opposed to a text) I would have thought it appropriate. If it’s more missing wordplay, then my apologies! Enjoying your take here again on _Whatever_. ;)

  35. Fascinating to have somebody your age explain this. I’m about six months older than your dad, and I capitalize and punctuate EVERYTHING. What you are reading now is exactly the way I text most of the time.

    I’ve only recently become aware that the way I write looks angry to younger people. I don’t like it, but it is so bloody hard to change this habit. The words just don’t look right without it! I’m trying though.

  36. Oh. My. God.

    this was seriously funny

    and helpful

    as I’m one of those old people who love

    a liberal helping of punctuation

    when I’m writing a blog post I have to go back

    and remove most of the exclamation points

    so I sound a little more subdued

    and normal

    !!!!!

  37. I had “heard” read this once before. But since you have to hear something six times before it sinks in, I only have to hear it four more times. Or fewer, since Athena explained it well.

    Actually, it’s not relevant for me, since I don’t use a mobile phone. (Partly ’cause everybody knows not to call me at work) My smart laptop does everything a smart phone would… except text. And converse. And now I think I’ll use a period before I hit enter to start a new thought.

    I guess peer groups rule. Like how I stopped saying cellular telephone because none of my lazy peers did.

  38. Dear Athena,

    Thank you!!!

    As an English major, and a guy who started being a professional writer when your Da was five years old, I’m used to learning different styles (e.g., Standard Written English (SWE), Academese, Popular)… but I don’t do social media. Consequently, I knew nothing about this.

    I am fascinated — what a wonderful thing, the way English morphs! I love it— now I have a new lect to learn. Wheee!

    Okay, I have a real question — how do you convey emphasis or excitement in this punctuation scheme? In OFE**, that’s what an exclamation point would be for, ‘cept it obviously doesn’t serve that purpose when it’s usually used as a replacement for a period. So, how do you write that, indicate specific emphasis or excitement?!

    ~~~~

    Dear English instructors,

    How do you folks deal with the constant changes in English? I know some of them are dictated by SWE, like the way the serial comma first swung out of fashion and now has became obligatory (again). But what about stuff that’s in transition like the singular-“they.” It’s not fully incorporated into SWE yet — different “bibles” disagree — but it’s pretty obvious the way it’s trending. I am curious to learn how you teach that sort of thing?

    (For any readers who are committed to OFE**, no I don’t want to hear the tired old whines about how ungrammatical, ambiguous, or neological the singular-they is. It’s none of those, learn your grammatical history!)

    ~~~~

    Dear Scott,

    Case or punctuation can be hostile in their usage.

    Do. You. Get. My. Point?

    I think that the above makes it clear to you.

    Take two:

    I think that the above makes it clear to YOU.

    The latter having the implication that you’re some kind of dunderhead because it singles you out, implying it would be clear to everyone else.

    These are stand-ins for spoken cadence. There’s a lot of difference between:

    “Dear, would you please take out the garbage?”

    and

    “Dear, would you PLEASE take out the garbage?”

    (Because, y’know, this is like the 532nd time I’ve asked you…)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    **(OFE — that would be Old Fart English)

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  39. Well. I use ellipsis quite a bit… and incorrectly most frequently.

    My brother has the ability to write 500 word sentences that say almost nothing with correct punctuation. By the end you are dying to see the period: “Please stop, let it end now!” The last time he composed one he was basically saying ‘I agree’.

    That is passive aggressive old fart style. Beyond that, I lurk on Twitter so I never have encountered the period issue. Thanks for the info.

  40. Glad to know that i am actually following a rule of some kind when I text, as seldom as that is.

    I can’t carry a conversation with tweets because I hate those little icons on my phone.

    Since I generally only toss back a word or two when someone texts me, I don’t use punctuation. That is mainly because it still takes me too long to get those few words out, I have to delete and replace letters too much.

  41. iactuallygoastepfurtherandstoppedusingspacesbecausewelltheyarentactuallynecessary
    andmakeyousoundabitslowjustlikeperiodsmakeyousoundangrydontyouagree

  42. I’m a dialectologist, and about a decade older than Athena. Nailed it. All that’s happening is that younger people have a enormous range of written styles, in a way that is almost unprecedented (how often in human history were close friends exchanging rapid, short, almost instantaneous messages?). They/we navigate a whole palette of options, fluidly and consistently, where older folks may have maybe two (formal, and a more casual one with plenty of ellipses). Punctuation, emoji, capitalization, spacing, emoticons, goofy alternative spellings, and typographical wordplay carry a lot of pragmatic meaning (i.e. above the literal meaning of the sentence – emotion, irony, mockery, inside jokes, etc.). This is an amazing time to be in linguistics: the Internet ans texting are an immense natural experiment. So much data!

    There is, for the record, no evidence of language degradation (unless your language is endangered due to a small number of remaining speakers – thaaaaaanks, European colonialism – and that’s a different matter). Languages falling apart or becoming less clear/expressive never seems to happen. It’s a persistent fear, but…nope. Languages change but do not lose their overall level of complexity. Writing is only about 7,000 years old – a lot younger than language – and is really just a nifty add-on that lets us do a bunch of extra things with spoken/signed languages.

    (Thirding Gretchen’s book. I know her and she is a wonderful scientist and human being. She has the career I would have wanted if I were an extravert.)

  43. Dear Jungle,

    noidontbecausewhatathenawroteisentirelyclearandcoherentandeasytoreadwhereasyourwritingisnotsotheyreallyarentcomparablesituationsnowarethey

    [g]

  44. Interesting perspective, Athena. I think one of the things lacking between generations is understanding. I found this valuable because I learned something from you. Thank you for giving me your point of view!

  45. Hmm. I’m definite genX, and I’ve nearly always left the . off of texts. I usually use it for the long pause (longer than comma), OR if the sentence ends in the middle of a line and the next sentence is the same topic. Otherwise it has the feel of ending the entire conversation. (We. Are. Done.!)
    I just tried using text punctuation for this entire comment, and it felt really wrong. The medium really matters!

  46. This is so interesting!

    I’m an English teacher in a college, so in your experience,I want to know, is this jettisoning of periods limited to texting? Or do you see it invading other forms of writing?

    Do people your age, in your experience, expect to switch back to using periods when they have to write longer pieces, like for school essay assignments or for emails? If not, what do you see happening to the long form types of writing that still exist in the internet age? How will we operate without periods? What if anything will take their place?

    When people read books, (and I know people under 30 still read books!) do they expect periods or do they see them as angry and aggressive in that medium too? Is this rejection of periods limited to texting and Instagram, or is it creeping out into other channels?

  47. As an older guy who was fluent in BBS lingo — nay, in several dialects of BBS lingo — back in the eighties, I understand perfectly how texting has its own rules, and omitting periods or capitals is how one signals “normal speech”. What bothers me is when people start using the rules of texting in other media, such as students writing me email (I’m a college professor) the same way they would write a text to their friends. It’s not the lack of periods I find irritating, it’s the uncalled chumminess connoted by it. But if I tell them about it, I’m afraid all they hear is “I don’t like this weird way young people write”, which is really not what it’s about.

  48. I’m really trying to figure out the rules for megapunctuation ,,,,, like I ????????? don’t understand how to audiblize it in my head !!!!!!!! 😤

  49. Wow, learn something new every day, I had no idea! (But then I’m much older than your parents, so…)

  50. Xarph:
    That is a really long pause, although it would work better as , , , ,
    Followed by extreme confusion about your identity, and then excitement with possible cocaine use.

  51. Thanks Athena for making me feel so young! 😂

    Will soon be 50, but I have always felt that « thanks. » was just so cold when compared to « thanks! », so I have always used the ! (or even !!!) liberally. And I know quite a few ppl my age who have the same tendency 😎

  52. I feel exactly the same way! having said that, I find myself using full stops (as we call them in the UK) when I’m writing something that’s a complete unit of communication (rather than a stream of thought like text messages, whatsapp, messenger, etc).

    I think it’s a question of signalling how much thought I want people to put into their replies? “Formal” writing -> full stops -> “please think before you write”/this is built to last. Informal writing -> “over” use of commas, semicolons, brackets/parenthesis for subclauses and em-dashes—like this -> “just put your brain down, we’ll figure out what we mean later”/this is ephemeral.

    Good examples of full stop-free comms would be this post, emails, blog post writing, and technical documentation, but I also use full stops for single, longer instant messages when writing to people over “rapid fire” channels but I want to indicate they can take time in their reply. (I’m also experimenting with using the site slow.fyi for this!)

  53. Oddly, I read lack of punctuation as flat and passive aggressive; but already knew I was an old. (Doesn’t help I chose English to major in, ages ago.)

    I do adjust! I’ve learned when working with folks sorta between your age and mine (closer to your dad’s) to drop such things (including capitalization) and use the lol and specific misspelling. So y’know, situational linguistic camouflage works cross-generationally…

    Fun to read! Enjoying you being on board more formally!

  54. I’m in my mid-20s and feel somewhat similar. I do suffer from making my sentences ridiculously long, but never connected that to the aversion towards periods. However, there’s a significant difference: For anything longer than a sentence I, and all of my bubble, have no issues adding that period. It happens only at the end of messages. (I do have a friend who sends every sentence as a sperate message, but oh well).

  55. I’m very happy that the Because Internet book has been mentioned a few times already – it’s absolutely a delightful read :)

  56. I (millenial, non-native English speaker) feel similarly, but depending on mood and context I have no issue with periods in a paragraph/text bubble between sentences. The last one, though, is almost always missing in text messages.

    The formatting changes for me across different communication channels, sometimes even between different messenger apps and friend groups. Discord is different to Telegram, blog comments are closer to email which is almost there at the formal end of my spectrum, which is a scientific paper.

    It makes sense to me to have different styles for different conversations. I do feel for people who aren’t familiar with particular styles, though. Sometimes you have to ‘get to know’ somebody multiple times across different channels and it can be alienating and exhausting at times.

    @Dana Lynne
    For me, the rules don’t apply for books. It’s a different medium, I usually don’t know the author and the narrator seldomly adresses the reader directly in a conversational tone. Used in an unusual context, I would feel weirded out by the ‘chumminess’, as someone else already mentioned earlier. I can imagine that it could be used well, but haven’t encountered it (yet).

    I wonder if the usage of emoticons helped to make periods disappear. It feels odd for me to add a smiley after a period, so often I’ll just leave it out. Somewhat relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/541/
    And putting a period behind a link feels weird (and could lead to malformed links), so I just hit enter after that :D
    (emoticon+enter substituting a period in action)

    Anyway, internet linguistics is pretty interesting and relevant to my daily life. I appreciate that Athena wrote this post and everyone (even ‘the olds’, lol) chiming in.
    I do feel a little bit uncomfortable when someone earnestly explains why they communicate the way they do and how it makes them feel to which some people answer only in mocking hyperbole. But maybe I’m reading too much into this. Tone is tricky in writing, after all.

  57. Shouldn’t it be
    “Have a great day,
    AMS” ?

    But seriously, I am mid-forties, my Mom taught grade school, and I see punctuation and spelling flubs in my old texts and I still cringe. I won’t be dropping periods for style any time soon.
    Conversely, my sister-in-law, 50+, does the multiple mini texts in a row for no apparent reason bit frequently. It makes my wife insanely angry. So maybe things other than age are at play?

    Interesting column,
    KSM

  58. “Have a great day.”?

    That looks like you hope I will, but won’t be concerned if I don’t.

    “Have a great day!”

    Hey, who are you to be ordering me to have a great day?

    and I always thought I’d be the one oldster in all of recorded history who didn’t get totally out of touch with Kids These Days…

  59. Working for a state government for the better part of 24 years, periods are a necessarily evil. Exclamation points simply are not used to end any sentences, save personal correspondence between co-workers.

    I can definitely understand that in a non-working environment, using a period can make you look angry. It’s a finality that doesn’t leave any room for discussion, at least with anyone under the age of 25.

    Personally, I like using the question mark to denote anger in my e-mail correspondence (not so much texting since my texting is limited to family). It’s simple, sweet and you can use it with less than 3 words to get your inflection across properly.

  60. It’s the first I’ve heard of this odd new interpretation of the period. I won’t be changing the way I write texts, but will try to be understanding in the unlikely event I ever receive a text from somebody younger than 40. A young’un.

    Surely, I remind myself, the content and meaning of the message are more important, even if the lack of closing punctuation makes it look as if a hostage’s desperate attempt to get a message out was abruptly interrupted.

    I can adapt to almost any idiosyncransies of punctuation as long as you spell “led” and “yeah” correctly. (I had finally accepted “yay” as an annoying variant spelling of “yea”; but then people started misspelling “yeah” as “yea”. How the hell did that happen?)

    Athena, you continue to impress. I’m sure that won’t be news to your dad.

  61. I discovered this via a work colleague, who has kids, last year. It was a shock to both of us. (I tended to alternate between fully-proper capitalisation and punctuation, and complete lack of both, depending on context and how much informality I wanted to project.) Neither of us had had any idea that punctuation came across as rude.

    We checked around the office, and the divide seemed to be somewhere in the mid-30’s. (This is in London.) Most everybody younger than that agreed that punctuation was rude, and most everybody older than that had never heard of the idea.

  62. My 17 y old told me recently, the OK I use when I am agreeing to his coming home later than planned is extremely aggressive, I should use Okay. Is this also a thing in the US, I’m from Holland

  63. I have to be careful not to drop the period from the final sentence of my emails these days, particularly those I write on my phone – who has time for that extra character? So while I don’t read periods as unhappy in any way I can understand the speed thing.

    As long as you don’t come for my oxford comma, we’re all good.

  64. Just to add another shout out for Gretchen McCulloch’s “Because Internet”.

    It’s fascinating to read an actual linguistic analysis of why and how the way we communicate online has evolved. As an offical Old Internet Person, there were lots of times I realised “Oh, so _that’s_ why I do that!”

    Definitely recommended reading for anyone communicating online, i.e. everyone :-)

  65. Yep…

    And again, I say to my wife, if we get resurrected in 100 years we probably won’t understand a word that is said or be able to comprehend whatever passes for written documents.

    “eed plebniste”

  66. Greetings, AMS, and an enthusiastic “Yes!!” from the generational Neutral Zone between the Baby Boom and Gen X. Brilliant piece, both in content and style, and bonus points for what my (similarly antique) friends in the newspaper world would call the “kicker graf.”

    I came late to texting (and am still playing catch-up, to the ongoing amusement of my mid-20s daughter), but developed, and carried over, similar punctuation habits from years and reams of informal emails exchanged with a geographically distant (writing and romantic) partner. [Extended, long-form email exchanges as a mode of friend-to-friend communication is, I think, one of those weirdly time-specific cultural phenomena — like tail fins on cars, or acid rock — that existed briefly but *intensely*. . . and my generation hit early adulthood at its high-water mark.] Informal text-on-screen is famously bad at capturing shades of emotion that facial expressions and tones of voice would carry in in-person interactions, and I’ve long thought that the (allegedly) “non-standard” punctuation conventions that have become the de facto standard in those media have evolved in order to restore that nuance.

    Nothing fine-tunes one’s sense of punctuational nuance like the realization that (in local context) “I love you . . . ” at the end of an email implies “and If we were in the same space right now, I would be kissing you enthusiastically” while “I love you.” at the end of the same email implies “but I am somewhat torqued-off at you right now, so ‘be advised,’ eh?”

    Ask me how I know.

  67. I used to keep all my handwritten or typed letters.

    I used to wonder why e-mails didn’t begin with Dear and end with Your truly until one day I noticed the “subject” line and realized they are defended not from paper letters but from carbon copy business memorandums. And of course business memos today are supposed to be fast, and not worth keeping.

  68. I don’t text anyone much younger than myself, other than my twentysomething sons. I hadn’t consciously noticed whether they omit full stops, but after reading this post I checked, and indeed the two of them have a very telegraphic texting style without any punctuation to speak of. I would not attempt to mimic their style, because they might think (a) I’m taking the piss out of them, or (b) someone has stolen my phone.

    I do use a lot of emojis so that the recipient, whoever it is, gets a sense of my current state of mind. Now & then I’ll slip a “teh” or a “byesies!” or a “!!!!1!!” into a text to one of the boys. Afterward I can practically *feel* their eyes rolling, even over a distance.

    The kids are well accustomed to my nitpickiness about grammar and usage. They have used it to their advantage over the years by having me, er, “glance over” their written assignments before they hand them in. I’m not perfect by any means, and I commit my fair share of solecisms – things that would make a seasoned copy editor blanch – but I try.

    On social media I’m more formal than, say, 9 out of 10 of the people in the groups I belong to. I’m just being me. I’m more concerned about conveying unambiguous information than I am about worrying how I’m coming across. I try not to notice anyone’s “there/their/they’re” and similar confusions. If anything, these are confirmation that in a relaxed, less formal environment, people reproduce on their keyboard the words and sounds they’re hearing in their head. Rising intonation, for example? At the end of each sentence? Which is a frequently-encountered vocal habit? And therefore, question marks are found in such a person’s every comment? That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. Occasionally I do it myself.

    As David Hajicek said upthread, “It’s all good.” =^_^=

  69. WordPress appears to have eaten a much longer post of mine.

    I won’t reiterate the whole thing. I never text anybody young except for my twentysomething sons. This post made me ask myself, “Do they leave out the full stops?” I sure as hell don’t.”

    So I looked, and sure enough, both of them have a very telegraphic posting style, devoid of all punctuation. I don’t try to imitate their style. They’d think that (a) I was taking the piss out of them, or (b) someone stole my phone.

  70. Love this post! I have been trying to reduce my exclamation point usage, because frankly I’m not all that enthusiastic about that many things. And I like short sentences- it’s how I talk. I don’t think I need to change my own style for outgoing messages for people who know me, but I’m pretty tolerant of incoming messages.

    A friend of mine has been using dashes instead of periods or commas for years in emails as well as texts and even letters through the mail before that. I enjoy it because it’s how she talks and it reflects how she thinks.

  71. @Schal I 100% agree with you! Assuming from your username, we might live in the same or a neighbouring country, so it could be a cultural thing

  72. Oregon Trail generation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Trail_Generation) here, to give you an age reference.

    A large part of my work is editing technical writing, and so I live and die by proper grammar and punctuation. I would never interpret a period in normal usage as aggressive (a period after every word. like. this. is aggressive, however). Excessive use of exclamation points is exhausting and, possibly, a sign that I don’t want to be within arm’s reach of that person.

    To the contrary, like amusedreams, to me a lack of punctuation and capitalization comes across as very passive-aggressive. It also strikes me as disrespectful to the reader/audience.

  73. Some of us olduns had Grammies who sent our thank you notes back, corrected in red pen, spelling, and punctuation! With footnotes on our character or lack thereof. You’re going to have to put up with grumpy periods.

  74. @manuel

    To me, Yay and yea are different. I don’t know How to explain it other than that yay is the reaction of a 5 year old getting told of a snow day (probably accompanied by jumping up and down in excitement), yea is the reaction of a middle schooler being told of a snow day (probably accompanied by punching the air).

    My capitalization is usually determined by my phone. And if I go back to reorder my words, I don’t usually correct capitalization, so I have random capitalized letters as an artifact of editing. (This is the reason Yay is capitalized in my first sentence)

  75. I’m early 50s with children ranging in age from 19 to 35. I also work as a manager of software developers, all of whom are in the age range of my children. I’ve learned how to adapt somewhat to txtspeak punctuation so I don’t alienate them, namely, skipping periods in single-sentence messages and using exclamation points to sound friendly.

    But I’ve also taught them all that when you are writing something more than a text (which means also Snapchat message or, at work, Slack message) they need to adapt to the punctuation (and grammar and usage) rules of my generation, as unfortunately for them, for now we are in charge of most things and we will judge them negatively for txtspeak in those communications.

  76. Sure, I get the clear, direct and commanding tone of ending sentences with a period. And I agree that single sentence messages don’t need one – however, sending me 12 text message (usually) while I am actually on my phone _trying_ to talk to someone I consider important is _annoying as hell_. I know you young folk don’t actually phone with your phones. But please, have some pity on those of us that do.

  77. I’m ten years older than you, and I remember the “send each thought/sentence segment as its own message, regardless of punctuation” norm developing on AIM and other chat programs in the ’90s/early ’00s as a way to mimic the normal flow of conversation. In real life, you don’t pause for a long time and then say everything in one bunch, so it makes sense to segment a long thought into phrases and hit “enter” after each one. It mimics actual conversational flow better because you’re not making the other person wait for the end of what you have to say before they can even get to the beginning. It makes sense that text messaging adopted that and ran with it.

  78. For me it’s about code-switching.

    I’m a 45yo professional, but due to various circumstances I’m at a point in my career where I’m contemporary with people 15 years my junior. I also have parents, and a wife (and friend circle) the same age as me, and a 9yo kid. So I communicate in some very different circles

    I talk and type very differently in different contexts, and have learned quite well how to switch between them. I write very precisely and formally when communicating with clients, or vendors, or contractors. I write very colloquially and informally with in-office (younger) contemporaries, in a different way than I communicate informally with outside-work (same age) contemporaries, in a different way than I communicate with my kid.

    You could look at all of my various written communications, and possibly not be able to tell they were from the same person.

    I fell kind of accomplished, that I can manage all of these styles.

  79. Gretchen McCulloch has already been namechecked, but I just want to add that she narrated her own audiobook, and her spoken versions of some online conventions are a ✧・゚: *✧・゚:* thing of beauty *:・゚✧*:・゚✧

  80. Eschewing proper punctuation is counterintuitive for me.

    Also, because I read with JAWS, things like missing periods, uncapitalized letters and the spelling that seems unique to texting sound awkward to my ear.

    Still, your point about how a period impacts tone is an interesting one, one that might make for an excellent addition to an academic journal.

    My area of interest was multi-modal writing instruction and the necessity of composition pedagogy to take into account the reading, thinking and writing conventions of generation Z.

    You’ve really given me something to explore here.

    We were instructed to crack down hard on students for employing “text-speak” in pieces of academic writing; this included emails to professors.

    I bring this up because it never occurred to me how I might have come across to students during email correspondence or in corrective comments (all of these in text boxes on Canvas) on their work.

    Were students taken aback at my rudeness when reading properly punctuated emails or Canvas remarks?

    To what extent should composition textbooks and class discussions of audience awareness and “the rhetorical situation” investigate the ways in which generation Z’s readers and writers process “properly” written correspondence?

    More importantly, are properly punctuated emails the hill instructors want to die on, particularly when one of our goals is to foster a comfortable and productive learning environment/teacher student relationship?

    Is it more useful, at least, when we’re talking email correspondence, to model “proper” writing conventions rather than jumping on students’ heads for not doing so to our satisfaction?

    I have my thoughts on this but am interested in your take on things.

    I’d also be interested in your thoughts on this:

  81. “If a message contains multiple sentences that need to be divided with a period, usually we just opt for hitting enter/return and starting a new line”

    This drives me crazy. My wife and daughter both do it. Argh. I tend to write the same in text as in any other text-based medium, and so I end up sending paragraphs–though, usually, if I need to say something that long, I prefer email.

    On the other hand… I read a gaming magazine, and even my 49-year-old brain got annoyed at the way the former editor used to end his introductions: “Enjoy the issue.” To me it felt like a command, and if he’d used an exclamation, it would have been friendlier: “Enjoy the issue!” Not even sure why those are different to me.

  82. @Sean Crawford
    “I used to wonder why e-mails didn’t begin with Dear and end with Your truly until one day I noticed the “subject” line and realized they are defended not from paper letters but from carbon copy business memorandums. And of course business memos today are supposed to be fast, and not worth keeping.”

    I feel that way, but I’ve moved to the UK for work, and I’m not sure whether it’s _my_ boss or the fact that the English are F****ers for silly formalisms (every web form wants to know my TITLE ffs!), but he’s twice come down on me for NOT starting my emails with a formal salutation and ending with an unmeant pleasantry. Well, I was retired before I took this job, and I don’t have a problem with retiring again, soon, so he can bite me…

    @Sarah Marie:
    “because I read with JAWS, things like missing periods, uncapitalized letters and the spelling that seems unique to texting sound awkward to my ear.”

    And that’s why we have to insist on some standards. I do web design and I’m sure I get it wrong as much as I get it right, but I _try_ to ensure my pages work with your software. Yes, the people who say that ending a sentence with a period is passive aggresive could argue that JAWS is applying outdated grammatical rules, but it isn’t smart enough to adapt in the moment—and they are!

  83. So I have a question. How are periods so much more difficult than commas?

    BTW, I solve Twitter’s annoying character limit by not using Twitter. I am so very much unannoyed.

    Another BTW. My stepson tells me “we don’t leave voicemails.” Does that accompany period anxiety?

  84. @Pointerstop: LOL!

    I understand that, completely. 😊

    While I can’t imagine requiring that kind of deference from employees, I did insist that students bookend email messages with a basic, “audience appropriate” greeting and salutation.

    Emails containing nothing more than “Please be quicker about grading the final” or “I don’t think it’s fair that I got marked absent just because I walked in 20 minutes late and left 15 minutes early” always, always got my back up, even when they weren’t so confrontational or entitled.

    It was like, I’m not your friend or significant other and you better come correct.

    Slapping knuckles over those kinds of “slights” seemed like egotistical pedantry so I resorted to leaving their emails unanswered.

    They usually got the message that I wasn’t joking.

    Still, resisting the urge to reply in kind was harder than it should have been.

  85. I mean to take a leaf from whoever typeset this book from 1726 and randomly replace periods with colons just because I can:

    1st. ma: turn 2d. wo: wth. his right hand once, and his par: ye same with 2d. ma:

  86. Athena, regarding your verbal speaking, a college teacher said that when students get used to their professors using long sentences (I think he meant with clauses) then they start using them too. I suppose at the high school level teachers talk like regular folks.

    I tell everybody that Toastmasters International (my campus had a club) is great for learned skills. For impromptu, I mean, not just when you go home and prepare a real speech. People said I used pauses well.

  87. I enjoy your enthusiasm and your breathless and exuberant prose, but I have to admit that viewing periods as angry or passive-agressive is something hard for me to fathom (I’m older than your dad’s mother), and I find it interesting that your dad has to copyedit your prose to fashion it into shorter sentences so that it’s easier to read and understand — which leads to thoughts of some of the most (in)famous run-on sentences in literature: Molly Bloom’s 36-page 2-sentence monologue in James Joyce’s Ulysses; not recommended for the faint of heart!

  88. @rpressergmail

    You might want to read your comments out loud before posting in the future. This one makes you sound like a tool, and I‘m sure this is not what you intended.

  89. Thanks for this. I hadn’t understood the lack of full stops, but it all makes sense now.

    I had a similar epiphany recently about the generational split on “you’re welcome” and “no problem” as a response to thanks for a minor favour. (I’m 56, and had always felt that “you’re welcome” was the polite response, while “no problem” was dismissive. I’m told that younger people feel that “no problem” is the polite response, and “you’re welcome” is condescending.)

  90. Fascinating! As a boomer who punctuates, uses periods, and TWO spaces between sentences, thank you very much, this was really informative. I had no idea! I’m an advisor for a College club. I’ll try to remember this so I don’t sound like a cranky(er) old guy!

  91. This, in all its…interestingly written glory, is taken from your dad’s old thread on teens and their “[sucky]” writing.

    It illustrates the awkward reading/listening experience that is text-speak, as decoded by JAWS.

    “Hey,I’m over the childish thing
    also, i’m not saying you did’nt encorage us a little
    but have you seen other articles on this matter?
    they take a brighter tone
    and surely you can generalise all teens and say all there writing sucks?
    thats like saying all teen girls wear lodes of makeup and only talk about boys (a stereo typical image I have long since regreted believing at the hands of a tom-boy sister)
    now i’m not saying my writing is brillant
    in fact, when i read my favorite books sometimes I feel damn depressed because my stories seem to suck compared to them
    and i understand what your saying,
    it’s hard to get puplished, be accepted as an author, ECT.
    but how would you like to be told this as a kid?
    Some people are VERY sensitive
    and if you tell them they suck, they’ll just sit in their room, mope and do nothing with there lives
    or else think there gods gift with writing and moan.
    I accept your comments
    but on some of them, you could try and use a brighter tone
    just for those people”

    JAWS feed the last and first words of each “sentence” to me as a single word. For example, the words “sensitive” and “and” sound like sensitive when I use the “say all” command.

    I’d have to manually scan each line with the arrow keys to distinguish one sentence from the next.

    This is why I come down on the “use proper punctuation! side of the line when it comes to email correspondence and professional/academic writing.

    I don’t really have an opinion on text messages, as I don’t ever text. Still, I can’t say that an improperly punctuated text would bother me as much.

  92. Clears throat:

    That passage should read:

    JAWS feeds the last and first words of each “sentence” to me as a single word. For example, the words “sensitive” and “and” sound like sensitiveand when I use the “say all” command.

  93. If knowledge is data, plus context filtered through the lense of our experience/training to cogitate it, then punctuation is an attempt to express spoken context in a written form (smileys are another example of context) and there is a divergent but common understanding that some punctuation is taking on a different context.
    As someone who has had to deal with teletype machine and telegrams, I think making a full stop seem passive aggressive is unhelpful, but how do you change a group movement like this once it gets going?
    If you want an example of why you shouldn’t remove the full stop, search for the field Marshall Haig telegram sketch in the speckled Jim episode of blackadder goes forth. It’s quite funny.

  94. Thank you for posting this, Athena. It’s useful to think on.

    I generally type with full sentences with periods (and two spaces after them). But as you say, that’s not the style of communication that my son or his contemporaries use.

    I’m in a weird generation (b 1973, graduated high school 1991); I was one of the very first classes to take typing when that wasn’t a think that only women would take to be secretaries. Classes a couple of years older than me, only women took typing. Much younger than me; everyone took it as a matter of course.

    But on the other side, email was *just* becoming a thing when I went to college in 1991. 6 or 8 years later, and I would hesitate to professionally deal with a company that didn’t bother to have a web site. So in my brain, email is a new-ish thing.

    But people my son’s age don’t bother to read their email because it’s so old-fashioned.

    But I try to stick to email for mass communications for groups of people. Texting is great for one-on-one conversations, but when you get a group texts with group replies, it’s chaos and you know who’s replying to what or to whom. When we get announcement texts about Boy Scout stuff, I then spend half a day getting messages like “great!” or “when is that?”, and I don’t know who sent them or who they’re to. Apparently different carriers and OSs deal with text messages differently and it makes texts useless for conversations more than 2 or 3 people.

    Thanks for the perspective. Welcome to the lineup! Looking forward to your writing.

  95. Just add me to the list of people saying “thanks” for posting this!

    As with many of the other folks posting, my daughter filled me in on this as well, and being an “old” myself, I found it was a pretty elegant way of handling the mostly “tag” based solutions of my generation (in my case, someone who “came of age” on USEnet and on BBSs’). *grins*

    For myself, I think it’s very cool to see how online language continues to evolve and that it’s being done to solve issues of people misunderstanding either context or emotion. Of course, that means now *I* have to learn things too. :)

  96. Alexandra, from Holland, at Aug 13 6:22 a.m. asks about how to spell OK.

    As a child in elementary school in Canada, during the days of black and white television, we were told it was slang, an Americanism, no one knew what the letters stood for, it was never to be used in formal print, (i.e. school writing) and that no one knew how to spell it yet. People used both OK and O.K. I think writing Okay is from trying to give it some false respectability. In the 1970’s there was a best-seller called “I”m O.K., You’re O.K.” (Later came a parody called “I’m O.K,, You I’m not so sure”)

    As for that 17-year old, well, I think at best he is in his own little generational bubble, but I could be wrong, as I ain’t a U.S. citizen. I think you can tell the boy that English is a living language, and not frozen-dead yet. The French have international conventions to freeze-dry “proper” French, but for the international English-speaking culture such a yucky idea would cause a reaction of “Yuck!” and never get off the ground. Don’t write yuck in formal print.

  97. I feel like BusinessWeek, or some other email listserv, at some point sent me an article that was titled something along the lines of “Why using periods in your email at work make you look like a jerk”. I’m 30, I’m a millennial, and I like my punctuation. I’m really disappointed that a period now leaves a negative tone in it’s wake; and not just in texts.
    I don’t use them often in text, I usually break to a new line to show a sentence has ended.
    I’m interested in your opinion on punctuation in emails?
    I think it boggles me even more because you’re right. A period has now become putting a foot down, a cold shoulder, or a closed mind regardless of intention.