Raging Danish debate: Full stops after text messages ‘angry’

There’s a raging debate in Denmark. Young people especially regard full stops after texts as coming across as a bit angry.

Formal writing will keep the punctuation mark, but many young people are confused about using full stops, according to researchers. And too many smileys in your texts and other messages means you must be old! 😱

Use of the full stop is changing fast


But why is language and punctuation use among the young changing?

Eva Skafte Jensen, senior researcher at the Danish government’s language watchdog Dansk Sprognævn is quoted as saying it’s surprising to see such a quick change in language use meaning as over the last five years. That doesn’t normally happen, she says.

And her fellow senior researcher Marianne Rathje at Dansk Sprognævn, who specialises in language use on social media, says the full stop has taken on a whole new meaning in recent years. “I’ve helped do surveys which show that the full stop has acquired a new meaning for many – especially young Danes. They interpret it as being angry when people finish messages with a full stop.”

One of the researchers interviewed a number of 14-16-year-old girls about ending messages with full stops. The girls looked at three sentences. The only difference was whether they finished with a full stop, an emoji or nothing.

The girls all agreed that a full stop was cold and abrupt, as if the person writing was angry. The third option was to insert an emoji such as a smiley. “Emojis miss things a bit, according to some of the youngsters,” says  Marianne Rathje. “It’s something their parents use, so they therefore back away from them.”

What’s your writing style? Do you put full stops after text messages? Apparently, it’s not only Denmark where this change is happening. Language and punctuation use among the young is changing in Britain and elsewhere too.

Read the article from Danish broadcaster DR (in Danish).

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