Everyone has that friend who's delightful in person, but seems cold and off-putting in text conversations. Did that "sure." mean she really wanted to order McDo tonight, or is she being all passive-aggressive about not getting pizza? It seems totally irrational, but the way you punctuate your texts has a major effect on how people view your personality. Science has even proven it.
A new study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that people who send texts that end in periods are viewed as less sincere than people who leave out the punctuation. Researchers at Binghamton University recruited 126 college students to read a series of texts or handwritten notes. The exchanges involved one person inviting a friend to an event, and the other giving a one-word response, like Okay, Sure, Yeah, and Yup. That one word sometimes had a period after it, and sometimes didn't.
The results aren't surprising for anyone who tries to read meaning into vague texts. Participants rated responses that ended with a period as less sincere than ones that didn't. And in a follow-up study, participants rated texts that ended in exclamation marks as even more sincere. Handwritten notes didn't have the same effect as texts, showing that this is definitely a 21st century problem.
"Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations," lead researcher Celia Kin said in a statement. "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, punctuation." So if you want to be seen as nice and fun, just say "Suuuure!" and add a million emojis. Otherwise, you're a horrible human being.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.