Has the period changed meaning in the Digital Age?
Ben Crair of The New Republic
recently delved into the subject of the period in his piece, “The Period Is Pissed
.” He details how the interpretation of the period can change the meaning of a sentence in a time when periods aren’t always used in Twitter and text messages.
He says the text “we could do that” (with no punctuation) is markedly different from “we could do that.” The latter, some have interpreted, means “you’d better not do that.”
This is an unlikely heel turn in linguistics. In most written language, the period is a neutral way to mark a pause or complete a thought; but digital communications are turning it into something more aggressive.
Indeed, many Twitter users and texters forgo periods entirely and signify that their thoughts have ended with line breaks, or by simply sending separate tweets or texts.
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Crair goes on to say that the new connotation for the period doesn’t seem to have seeped into “more traditional, thoughtful writing,” though it’s entirely possible it could. English is a living language, after all. Of course, that would leave writers with no “standard,” neutral punctuation with which to end sentences.
In a time when digital communication is the preferred form, is the default style now the line break, as Crair suggests? Any ideas for what the new, neutral mark to end sentences could be? Maybe it could be this emoticon: :|