Listen Up! How You Use Punctuation in Texts? It Matters. A Lot.

By Janine Doyon

Thanks! Thanks? Thanks…

When you’re reading these, are you hearing the difference? How would you react to these one-word sentences if your friend sent them in a text message?

How you use punctuation can change the whole meaning of a text. A quick “thank you” message can go from friendly to passive-aggressive or anxiety-inducing, simply by changing the exclamation point to a period.

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“In an Internet context, punctuation is often used to convey a certain kind of tone of voice,” says linguist Gretchen McCulloch, author of “Because Internet.” 

Exclamation points sound more polite! Ending a text message with a period might be the grammatically correct way to do it, but it can come across as rude. 

“And if you say things with that tone, that sounds a little bit sarcastic, it sounds a little bit final,” McCulloch said. “And sometimes that gets interpreted as, ‘maybe this person’s mad at me, maybe this person isn’t sincere…’”