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Linguists have found that young adults are triggered by the full stop (‘period’ to my American readers).

You could not make this up.

On August 23, The Telegraph, along with many other news outlets, published an article about it: ‘Generation Z feels intimidated by full stops, experts find’.

It says (emphases mine):

Full stops have become the latest casualty of youthful sensitivity as experts say they can be “intimidating”.

As teenagers and those in their early twenties, Generation Z, have grown up with phones in their hands, using short messages to communicate with one another, and the punctuation mark has fallen out of fashion and become a symbol of curt passive-aggression.

Linguists have been debating the use of the full stop and why some young people interpret a correctly punctuated text as a sign of annoyance.

Some argued that the full stop had become redundant, as a text was now ended simply by sending it, and the sentence did not need to be finished with a punctuation mark.

Linguist Dr Lauren Fonteyn tweeted “If you send a text message without a full stop, it’s already obvious that you’ve concluded the message. So if you add that additional marker for completion, they will read something into it and it tends to be a falling intonation or negative tone.”

What if you accidentally send a message before you’ve finished it, Dr Fonteyn?

This extends to more than texts. Another linguist says it also applies to emails:

Owen McArdle, a linguist at the ­University of Cambridge, said: “I’m not sure I agree about emails. I guess it ­depends how formal they are.

“But full stops are, in my experience, very much the exception and not the norm in [young people’s] instant messages, and have a new role in signifying an abrupt or angry tone of voice.”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

However, in linguistic circles, a debate has been going on about the full stop since 2015! Get this:

Prof David Crystal, one of the world’s leading language experts, thinks the use of the punctuation mark is being “revised in a really fundamental way”.

In his 2015 book, Making a Point, he explains that instead of its original purpose, signifying the end of a sentence, it has become an “emotion marker”, signifying anger or annoyance.

He said: “You look at the internet or any instant messaging exchange – anything that is a fast dialogue taking place. People simply do not put full stops in, unless they want to make a point

This is also backed up by science. A 2015 study by Binghamton University in New York, involving 126 undergraduates, found that they perceived text messages ending in a full stop as being less sincere than the same message without a full stop.

Researchers also found that exclamation points did the opposite of full stops, making people seem more sincere and engaged.

Well, there you have it!

Most of us were taught to reserve our use of exclamation points. Too frequent a use undermines one’s written credibility.

I cannot imagine anyone being triggered by a full stop, especially university students.

In the words of the musical: ‘Stop the world — I want to get off’. This is too much.

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