As a ’90s-born college student, I’ve lived through every form of text message – from chatspeak to long sentences with actual punctuation – (wow! what a thing to tell my kids some day…). And I’ve noticed a couple quirks of the punctuation in texts these days that sparked my fancy.
Considering that nowadays the period has become anything but redundant in its usage, tacking a period on to the end of a sentence tends to give more meaning to it. For instance, if you do include it, it adds a touch of finality, even anger, to the text. But left off, it could even suggest what an ellipses suggests: a non-conclusion, an open ending.
It varies, of course, on the texter. If one person regularly includes a period at the end of each sentence, and then suddenly doesn’t (and, of course, they are one of the awesome few that actually re-reads their texts – omitting spelling or grammar errors in the process ~so annoying to get those, but then I have been termed a “Grammar Nazi”) it’s probable that there is some sort of hidden meaning in it. Or they’re just tired/unobservant.
These three little dots, I’ve noticed – especially in social media / popular memes, have given texts a sexual undertone. (Depending on context, of course.) More broadly, it lends the sense that the textee must read between the lines to find the meaning of the text. Or it could imply, as it does in formal literature, merely a silence or a thoughtful tone.
I picked up this cute little text-punctuation from a friend of mine. I’m not sure the correct way to use it – if indeed there is one – but I usually stick it at the beginning of a little phrase that is somehow connected to the sentence before it.
I’ve heard, however, that if tacked on to the end of a sentence (sans period), it mostly provides an affectation of cuteness. (It apparently migrated to America from Japan.) Of course, it also has its uses an approximation, a negation (for Computer Science nerds ;), or even, according to UrbanDictionary, a way to censor sexually explicit words.
Multiple Marks (Exclamation, Question, etc.)
For some reason, it’s always annoying to find this type of punctuation in published short stories or novels. Perhaps it seems repetitive or uneducated. But I found it’s used rather a lot in text messages without being overbearingly agitating. One cannot text, for instance, “‘Ohmigosh!’ he said excitedly.” You must instead write, “Ohmigosh!!!!” (Well I suppose you could text the first one, but I can’t promise you won’t come off as rather pretentious. If that’s your thing, more power to you. She laughs and winks as though she herself doesn’t do this.)
I actually find it super interesting how leaving question marks off a sentence that is meant to be a question, or adding a question mark to a statement, can effect the meaning of the sentence. Much like, in literature, writing:
“You’re leaving?” she said.
“He’s dying, isn’t he.”
lends so much more meaning to each line.
It works the same way in text messages and it’s beautiful. Leaving off a question mark to what is obviously a question adds an air of indifference or resignation, I think, while adding a question mark to an obvious statement lends doubt and the need to confirm the statement. (That is at its most basic level.)