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Full stops ‘intimidate young people’ say linguists
Pic: Shutterstock

26 Aug 2020 / technology Print

Full stops ‘intimidate young people’ say linguists

Full stops intimidate young people, as they seem angry, linguists have said.

Linguists believe that the brevity of social media messages has led younger people to do without punctuation.

The full stop’s purpose as an end-of-sentence signifier is fading as a result.

The use of a full stop now has a passive-aggressive nuance, and is interpreted as a sign of annoyance by young recipients, researchers believe.

Negative tone

Leiden University’s Dr Lauren Fonteyn said that young people interpret a full point as a falling intonation or negative tone.

She elaborates that sending a message itself signifies the end of the text, so there’s no need for a full stop to illustrate this.

Cambridge linguist Owen McArdle told the Daily Telegraph: “Full stops are, in my experience, very much the exception and not the norm in [young people’s] instant messages, and have a new role in signifying an abrupt or angry tone of voice.”

Linguist Professor David Crystal has said that the usage of full stops is being ‘revised in a really fundamental way.’

In his book, Making A Point, he writes: ‘You look at the internet or any instant messaging exchange – anything that is a fast dialogue taking place. People simply do not put full stops in, unless they want to make a point.’


Professor Crystal said that the use of a full stop is now an ‘emotion marker’ signifying anger or annoyance.

In a 2015 study of students, it emerged that using full stops is perceived as a mark of insincerity.

And 2015 research at New York's Binghamton University found that exclamation marks served the opposite purpose and could even make their senders seem sincere and engaged!

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