Are you following new norms of electronic conversations?

Nov 10, 2013

Texting has changed the conventions of punctuation, and given the period entirely new emotional clout.

Host Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan discuss the evolution of written conversation on this week’s edition of That’s What They Say.

Curzan and her students have been investigating how electronic conversations work. Those via text or email. One significant change they found is the "power period," which creates the difference between okay (without a period) and okay (with a period).

“Without a period, that’s the neutral or unmarked okay,” Curzan explains. “The okay with a period is a little bit abrupt, a little bit more serious and maybe even a little bit angry.”

Adding ellipses after the word changes the meaning as well. Okay… may imply skepticism or unhappiness, or rather, something that is not okay.  On the other hand, including ellipses before the word softens the message.

In verbal communication, tone, body language and facial expressions can hint at a phrase’s true meaning.

In electronic conversation, punctuation has evolved to make up for the lack of visual cues. Periods and ellipses can be used to suggest the emotion behind written words.

People are learning these new norms as they are texting and creating a shared set of rules.

How do you include emotion in an electronic conversation? Let us know by writing on our Facebook page or commenting on our website. 

- Clare Toeniskoetter, Michigan Radio Newsroom