Simpson College professor co-authors study on punctuation in texts

The study asked 126 undergraduate students to rate the sincerity of one-word text messages. | File photo

Simpson College assistant professor of psychology April Drumm-Hewitt recently co-authored a research paper exploring how young individuals perceive punctuation in text messages.

The study asked 126 undergraduate students to rate the sincerity of one-word text messages. It found that messages ending with punctuation were deemed less sincere than those without.

“It’s not that there is always something mean or sarcastic about using punctuation, but it seems that in texting a period can be used to convey more than just the end of a sentence," Drumm-Hewitt said. "Punctuation is just one type of information that we can use to communicate pragmatic or social information."

Drumm-Hewitt said people's perception of punctuation in text messages represents the ever-changing landscape of language.

“The idea that punctuation is used differently in text messages than in handwritten notes is just one example of how we adapt language when we need a better way of communicating clearly," Drumm-Hewitt said. "Tone of voice is hard to judge in text messages and emails, so we develop other ways of showing it."

In addition to being published in the Computers in Human Behavior peer-reviewed journal, the study was also featured in a variety of media outlets including the Huffington Post, New York Daily News, ABC Online and the Today Show.

“It’s exciting to see your work get published but it’s thrilling to see it appear the mainstream media,” Drumm-Hewitt said.

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