Full stops ‘intimidate young people’ as they seem angry, say linguists.

Does. This. Intimidate. You?

Linguistic experts are claiming that young people don’t like full stops because they seem like a sign of anger – particularly in reference to social media messages.

It’s suggested that this is because Millennials and Generation Z, who have grown up with phones, tend to send shorter messages without punctuation. According to linguists, the full stop has become a passive aggressive symbol for younger generations, as correctly punctuated text can be interpreted as a sign of annoyance.

Leiden University’s Dr Lauren Fonteyn tweeted: ‘If you send a text message without a full stop, it’s already obvious that you’ve concluded the message. So if you add that additional marker for completion, they will read something into it and it tends to be a falling intonation or negative tone.’

Some experts, like Dr Lauren, argue that sending a message itself signifies the end of the text, so there’s no need for a full stop to illustrate this.

A 2015 study among university undergraduates also backs up these negative connotations. It found that using full stops could actually make people seem insincere.

Owen McArdle, a linguist at the University of Cambridge, told the 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.’

Of course, experts have noted that it’s important to take context into account. For example, using full stops in an email is perfectly acceptable and is not considered rude.

The potential change in meaning of the full stop, in relation to online communication, has been debated by linguists for years. 

Professor David Crystal – one of the world’s leading language experts – says 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.’

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