With the ‘Tears of Joy’ emoji being declared the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015, it’s clear that our written language is changing as a result of digital communication. And it’s affecting aspects of our language that we usually take for granted.
A recent study conducted by the Department of Psychology at the State University of New York in Binghamton has confirmed a new trend in written language — a decline in the use of the period(.) in favor of emoticons and other (or no) punctuation marks. The report, entitled “Texting Insincerity: The Role of the Period in Text Messaging,” tested the “perceived sincerity” of various text messages and found that using a period is “a bad way to convey heartfelt emotion” while “leaving them out seems to convey an air of nonchalance, where replies seem more casual and jokes more impromptu.”
Rhodri Marsden, writing for The Independent, dissects the new trend:
“How did we get to this point? Texts and instant messages have replaced a great deal of voice-to-voice and face-to-face communication, and we’ve adopted various ways of adding nuance to these non-verbal mediums. We experimented with the bludgeoning force of the exclamation mark, moved on to a range of improvised smileys and now deploy emoticons in ever greater numbers, creating what’s been described as an ‘arms race’ of embellishment and augmentation.”
Marsden illustrates by describing how “adding a [period] to the sentence ‘I love you’ can, in certain circumstances, negate the sentiment of the words preceding it, but a small emoticon of a shooting star can elevate it to a whole new level of affection.”
Celia Klin, leader of the Binghamton research team behind the study, explains, “It’s not surprising that as texting evolves, people are finding ways to convey … complex and nuanced information.”
So, what does this mean for your marketing efforts via text messaging and social media? In short, it means you no longer have to follow proper grammar rules! While this might seem like a relief, in reality it introduces more complexity into your written communication with a wider spectrum of punctuation options. Depending on your audience, the branding you’re trying to establish or maintain, and the tone and specifics of each message, your punctuation can now range from traditional to emoticon-filled (and period-absent), with a host of options in between. This requires you to understand your audience more intimately than ever before — to pay attention to how they communicate and want to be communicated to. Punctuation should be part of your messaging experimentation, to discover what works best for your audience.