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There’s a report on today’s BBC website wherein an Internet linguist, Gretchen McCulloch, says that ending a short reply on a messaging service with a full stop (period) is considered rude.  For example, if I send a message from my iPhone using iMessage, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger, that said Fancy going to the cinema tomorrow? and receive the reply Sounds great. (with a terminating full stop), Ms McCulloch says more and more people would be offended by the terminating full stop punctuation mark in the reply. What a load of codswallop!  Ms McCulloch’s opinion is that the reply should be either Sounds great (no terminating punctuation), or sounds great (no upper case start letter or terminating full stop), or even Sounds great! (a terminating exclamation mark, or emoji, to introduce emotion into your reply).

Opening ABC keyboard on an iPhone 6 – upper case letters

I disagree with Ms McCulloch’s statement.  A Sounds great or sounds great reply simply indicates laziness.  Consider the soft keyboard displayed on an iPhone when you open any social media app.  There are no punctuation marks on the startup ABC keyboard.  You have to switch to the 123 keyboard to insert punctuation marks.

Switching to the 123 display

Consequently, there is a risk that laziness will beckon and Sounds great will wing its path back to the sender of the invitation.  (Incidentally, one of my granddaughters pointed out to me that tapping the Space key twice inserts a full stop.  I would never have known that if she hadn’t told me!) The iPhone keyboard opens in upper-case mode so there’s no excuse for starting the sentence with a lower-case letter.  In fact, you would have to hit the Shift key to type and send sounds great.

Lower case abc keyboard display

My conclusion on all this is that the design of soft keyboards combined with natural laziness has caused sentence constructions that may offend a pedantic grammarian but causes no problems with those who primarily use messaging services on a smartphone to communicate quickly and tersely with the members of their social circle.  I am not offended if a single-sentence reply terminates with a full stop and I accept that, occasionally, I will receive full-stop-free replies.  I interpret the latter as common practice and take no offence.

To be fair to Ms McCulloch, she cites a 2015 research paper authored by a number of people in the Psychology Department at Binghamton University (New York).  The title of the paper is Texting insincerely: The role of the period in text messaging (no terminating full stop in the title).  The BBC article summarises the results published in this paper thus:

A 2015 study by Binghamton University involving 126 undergraduates found they perceived text messages ending in a full stop as being less sincere than the same message without a full stop.

I may take a closer look at this paper.  If I do, expect another blog on this subject.


Footnote.  I’ve since changed my mind about all this, drastically.  Rather than delete the blog, I decided to post a self-rebuttal.  Take a look at the followup posted here.