I can deal with political correctness in a lot of forms. I have (what I believe to be) a highly-developed emotional intelligence, born out of a natural empathy and over a decade of working as a REALTOR® (we work with all types of people in emotional situations — EQ is a must!).
But this I have no patience for. Punctuation is important — and that includes the period. Full stop.
Apparently, the period is now viewed as the epitome of texting rudeness, and I refuse to accept it. I know this isn’t a new story — the earliest article I have found accusing the period of rudeness (well, not the period itself, but those who have the gall to use it in text messages) is from 2013 (though WIRED published an article in 2011 called, “Secret Meanings of Text Message Punctuation” — why? why does punctuation need to be assigned secret meanings, when it already has, you know, actual meanings of which we are already all aware…?). This, to me, is political correctness at it’s most ludicrous and unbelievable: we now must evaluate whether or not the recipients of our text messages are going to take offense by reading into our texts a secret meaning, a maliciousness, a rudeness or a certain attitude, simple if, by good grammar alone, we include the sweet, innocent little period. I think we can all agree that, texting in and of itself, can be a bit difficult to navigate. When in doubt, people, make a phone call.
Now, however, to make it even more ridiculous, the use of correct punctuation is being assigned nefarious undertones. I say, simply: NO.
A very informal Facebook poll on the subject revealed that, among my friends, running the gamut from Millennial to Boomer, the responses were mixed. Okay, you can guess who was mostly in the camp of “periods are rude” (that sentence made me giggle — ladies, you’ll understand why!) — yes, my Millennial friends, it was you, which makes sense, to a degree. One of you gave an intriguing example:
Me: Can you go to the store on your way home?
Me: Can you go to the store on your way home?
Me: Can you go to the store on your way home?
(We won’t begin to discuss Husband’s lack of capitalization — I’m a grammar fiend, for sure, but let’s keep this to one topic at a time.)
To me, the first example appears to convey that Husband is really excited (!) about going to the store. [NOTE: More about excessive exclamation point usage in Gmail’s smart replies, here.] Maybe this gives him freedom to purchase what he wants (hooray!) or maybe he just really loves grocery shopping or really loves any opportunity to make his wife’s life easier (awww…). The third example, in my opinion, is just a declarative, “Sure.” As in, “I will absolutely stop at the store on the way home (and I know this sentence should end in a period).”
Let’s compare the second and third examples: Is #2 really nicer than #3? Does #3 really convey a passive aggressive undertone, as in, “Sure. Yeah, I guess, if you’re too lazy to go yourself ” or “Sure. Happy to (but not really).”
While it is true that “[t]exting removes the vocal cues we once used to overanalyze” tone,  shouldn’t we also ask ourselves if we’ve just become a little too oversensitive or if the medium of text has made us just plain lazy? (I’m not sure which is worse, thinking we’ve become oversensitive or lazy, though laziness may be inching ahead in my estimation. I’m looking at you, abbreviations such as BRB, TTYL, u and ur, and other misspellings that really irk me.) Ben Crair pointed out, in his 2013 article for New Republic, “In most written language, the period is a neutral way to mark a pause or complete a thought; but digital communications are turning it into something more aggressive.”  The poor period — just hanging out, trying to be neutral (and useful), and here we are with our newfangled digital communication, turning it into something it’s not.
An article from MarketWatch proclaimed, “We’ve agreed that putting a period after a one-word response in a text conveys something like abruptness, annoyance, negativity.”  First, I’d like someone to please identify the “we” in this sentence (okay, fine, I know it’s you, Millennials, but why?), but second, and more importantly, I’d like to offer up the following argument: I’d like to counter that the lack of a period, even at the end of a one-word sentence, conveys abruptness or annoyance, as in, “I don’t even have the time to finish my response to you with correct punctuation, that’s how little I think of you!” It takes me just a wee bit of extra time to finish my sentence correctly, to show that you are worthy of my Punctuational Correctness (see what I did there?) and that I am invested in our conversation enough to complete my sentence, but my omission is my signal to you that you don’t rate high enough on my list of important people to command correct punctuation.
Perhaps that’s a little too dramatic, but I do have a bit of a serious problem with the degradation and deterioration of the English language in our increasingly technological society. The Queen’s English Society in the U.K. closed after 40 years of working to protect the English language (proving the problem isn’t just American). Kids aren’t learning cursive in school (several states have begun passing laws to bring it back, thank goodness, but we have a long way to go to reverse the damage of the early 2000s). A lack of correct punctuation spills over from our texts messages into our other communication — emails, job applications, and other professional communications. I recently saw an application for a volunteer position at a REALTOR® Association that contained no capital letters, no punctuation, a lack of complete sentences, and a blatant disregard for the English language…and yet, this person was applying for an executive position on the Board of Directors. Posts on social media are often confusing and difficult to discern due to misspellings, punctuation mistakes, and grammar abominations. (I find it hard to “like” a meme, even if I find it funny or entertaining, because I simply cannot “like” the abysmal grammar and spelling.)
Does this make me sound elitist? Maybe (that’s not my aim, but maybe). Does my lack of flexibility with the informal medium of texting make me seem too serious, lacking a sense of humor? Perhaps. And I am just fine with that.
Sadly, when researching for this post, I came up with dozens of results for the Google search “using a period in a text is rude” but to the query of “using a period in a text is not rude,” scant few. Sometimes, however, one is all you need. In answer to the question, “what do we do about it?”, Nico Lang write for The Daily Dot, “Killing punctuation won’t remedy the situation; what we need is to say what’s on our minds and communicate more effectively.” In simpler terms, he wrote, “if you don’t want to come off like a jerk in your text messages, don’t be a jerk… Trust me—the problem isn’t that our periods are making us assholes but that we sound rude all on our own.”  It sounds like sage advice to me (“don’t be a jerk”); it also sounds like pure common sense. He goes on to discuss that, because old-school phones limited our character count and old-school phone service plans charged by the text, brevity was more of a necessity than a convenience (hence, I suppose, BRB, TTYL, and the like); we understood more readily if you left out a period if you were just simply out of characters to us (painful as that omission may have been to some of us). Now, however, the need to save characters is gone and pay-by-the-text plans are virtually non-existent, so brevity in these forms comes across as lazy. Time-saving is not a valid excuse. (With the reading of this sentence, I venture to say Mr. Lang is my people: “[C]utting periods is a lot like texting “tonite” instead of “tonight,” something that might get you back 0.1 seconds of your life but isn’t all that helpful, when you get down to it.” Thank you, Nico Lang.)
“Killing punctuation won’t remedy the situation; what we need is to say what’s on our minds and communicate more effectively.”
~ Nico Lang for “The Daily Dot”
So What Do We Do?
I ask you this, then: how do we decriminalize the period? How do we offer the humble full stop a reprieve from being misunderstood, bring it back to neutral, and let it just be useful again, in all communication? Can we please return to a time when it was our attitude and tone that would convey if we were being rude, rather than the use of innocent punctuation? Could we come to an agreement that, if I’m upset with you, if I’m being rude to you, you’ll know it, and it’ll be much more obvious to you than whether or not I insert a period?
If we cannot just agree to be reasonable and keep using a tiny, wee, little dot that first originated with the writings of Aristophanes (surely, we can appreciate historical significance and the longevity of such a small but huge piece of written history), maybe we just need to make punctuation more fun. If, every time we send a text, we give the sweet little period a fun sound effect in our brains, maybe the illusion of passive aggression and negativity will disappear and the period can go back to doing its job, which is really all it wants to do, anyway.
What’s My Point?
Where am I going with all of this? Frankly, though I am a self-styled Captain of the Grammar Police (or at least a fully deputized member of the squad), I am not without mistakes in my own texts, social media posts, emails, and heck, probably even blog posts; sometimes no amount of reading and re-reading, proofing, editing, and re-writing is enough. And texting is, after all, supposed to be informal in nature (the author grudgingly admits). I am not on a mission to make every text message grammatically and punctuationally perfect (Lord, help me if that was my aim!). I would simply like to make the point that reading into the meaning of something as innocuous as a period is ludicrous and frankly not where we should all be wasting our precious time. With so much negativity in our world these days, do we need to create more negatives by reading into the meanings of a simple little dot?
To quote a wise friend, Sam, who responded to my Facebook poll with the following: “Consider ‘seeking to understand’ if a txt [sic] makes you feel some kind of way. Don’t EXPECT others to be a kind of way. Accept them for how they are showing up.” So, how about that? How about accepting the text messages of friends, clients, colleagues, family in the spirit of giving the benefit of the doubt, not assigning malice or assuming hidden meanings (you know what happens when you assume, right?). Instead, let the period go back to being the irreproachable symbol of the end of a simple statement, and if you truly feel that the sender of said period is saying more than that wee symbol is meant to communicate, pick up the phone and find out.
Having said all of this, I am going to keep using the period, in everything I write — emails, text messages, blog posts, contract stipulations. Period. Full stop.
- Secret Meanings of Text Message Punctuation – WIRED 
- The Period is Pissed. When did our plainest punctuation mark become so aggressive? – New Republic 
- Using periods in text messages means more than you think – MarketWatch 
- Why you need to keep using periods in texts – The Daily Dot 
- Science Says You Should Leave the Period Out of Text Messages – ThoughtCo
- Study confirms that ending your texts with a period is terrible – Washington Post
- There’s a linguistic reason why using a period in a text message makes you sound like a jerk – Business Insider
- When Your Punctuation Says It All (?) – The New York Times
- A history of punctuation in English – Unravel
- Queen’s English Society says enuf is enough, innit? – The Guardian
- A long decline – The Economist