How often do you use a period? You know, the small dot at the end of a sentence. The one that says, “Statement ends here.” If you’re prone to communicate over digital mediums like social media, IM, or text, you probably don’t use it all that often.
According to language expert David Crystal, as quoted by the New York Times, “We are at a momentous moment in the history of the full stop.” Digital communication has mostly done away with the period. Texting bubbles, for instance, perform the same function that periods once did, forming boundaries around individual statements.
In fact, scientists last winter determined that ending texts with a period could be more alienating. In the study, according to the Washington Post, “experimental messages featured an invitation followed by a brief reply. When that reply was followed by a period, subjects rated the response as less sincere than when no punctuation was used. The effect wasn’t present in handwritten notes.”
The period has become a small form of aggression, redundant in an age of speech bubbles and line breaks. We don’t really need it anymore when instead of collecting multiple thoughts on one page, every statement we make is a discrete chunk of data. The same goes for status updates on social media. The informal nature is one thing, but, in addition, there are tons of visual boundaries and cues separating thoughts and statements from each other.
Obviously, the period isn’t going to disappear from, like, books and stuff — this shift applies more to informal written communication than it does to capital-W Writing. Still, it all has the consequence of making the period less relevant and more menacing. The period isn’t just an end point anymore, it’s a signal.