Poor punctuation in text messages may not be quite such a huge turn off after all, as some people see it as a mark of authenticity and honesty.
Companies and organisations that use SMS have long been told to use correct punctuation wherever possible, to maintain an air of professionalism. Now, research from Binghamton University’s Harpur College has thrown doubt on the entire notion, after finding that messages without correct punctuation can be seen as more spontaneous and heartfelt.
The researchers tested a group of 126 students, providing them with a text message question and a one-word answer in reply. Half of the group were offered answers with full stops at the end, whilst the other half saw messages without the stops. It emerged that messages without the punctuation mark were seen to be significantly more sincere.
Though this test only used a narrow scope of messages, researchers have claimed it hints at a big trend in SMS communications. Full stops, they say, show a more pragmatic approach to communication, whilst the punctuation-free messages were viewed more as being spontaneous and friendly.
Whilst these findings could prove interesting for certain brands, they may not be suited to all. Companies that target the older market, or have more formal messages to convey, would be best placed to continue using proper punctuation in their messages. Anyone targeting the youth audience, meanwhile, might wish to play around with grammatical rules in order to come across as more open or sincere.
This is especially true for automatic replies to messages, where a little personality may be welcomed. Companies could trial leaving out full stops from brief auto-response messages, to see if customer sentiment changes.
The most sincere messages, according to a follow-up study by the group, were those which contained exclamation marks. In one-word responses, exclamation marks provide the social cues that are otherwise absent in written communications. They are, the researchers claimed, the equivalent to facial expressions, eye contact or tone of voice.
Again this is the feedback of students, so may not be applicable to all audiences, but it appears that no punctuation shows more personality than some, whilst an exclamation mark shows the most.
Associate professor of psychology and associate dean at Harpur College, Celia Kiln, told dailymail.co.uk: “Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations.
“When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with… tone of voice, pauses and so on. People obviously can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting. Thus, it makes sense that texters rely on what they have available to them – emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and, according to our data, [certain] punctuation.”