The Use of Punctuation Marks in Today’s Communications

August 3rd, 2015

In this post we’ll take a look at the way in which today’s written forms of communication are altering the meaning of punctuation signs.

The Use of Punctuation Marks in Today’s Communications | One Hour Translation

In this post we’ll take a look at the way in which today’s written forms of communication are altering the meaning of punctuation signs.

For example, in a tradition communication of (say) a letter exchange, two things occur between the intention to communicate and the completion of the communication – the production of the message and the sending of the message. These acts include materials and actors; like pen and paper, envelopes, stamps, a postman, and so on. However with today’s new written communication system not only is there a totally different range of actors and materials, but we also have a different attitude when it comes to punctuation rules.

The Seriousness of Using a Period

A study on communication habits of university students was conducted by American.edu: they discovered that 39% of students use periods at the end of sentences in text messages, and 45% use them when chatting. And when it comes to periods at the end of an idea the percentages were 29% for texting and 35% for chatting.

Ask today’s teenagers how they would feel about receiving a text message which conformed perfectly to writing rules and they would quickly respond that if they were to receive a well-written message they would know that something was wrong; that something bad was going to happen, or had already happened. So, strangely, there appears to be a direct correlation between adhering to writing rules and the seriousness of a message.

It’s Just a Simple Little Dot!

In fact, texters will confirm that the simple dot at the end of a sentence has become a way of telling someone that you’re mad with them! It seems that with texts and instant messages punctuation marks have generally been replaced by a line break. People texting are much more likely to type two separate messages without punctuation, such as –

sorry I missed you at lunch

next time let’s order sushi

So it seems that, when texting, we don’t need to end a sentence with any punctuation at all. It’s fine to just leave it hanging. Using a period (apparently) sends a message of finality to a statement. Compare these two –

I’m leaving for the club now.

I’m leaving for the club now

The meaning is quite clear in the first example. Yes, we’ve been going over these plans by text, but I’m busy and I don’t have time to continue with this conversation – period.

In the second message it feels quite open-ended. Yes, I’m leaving for the club now, but I’m not sure what I’ll be doing later; perhaps you’ll be a part of it. Using a period is final – not using a period keeps the conversation open.

Real-Time Communication

Putting a period at the end of a sentence was one of the original punctuation marks passed from orality to writing when indicating a pause. But today, our new forms of written communication have resulted in us using writing more in the manner of speech; as in two people interacting in real time.

The famous American writer, Edgar Allan Poe, said that any writer who mispunctuates or neglects punctuation is liable to be misunderstood. It seems that in today’s modern communications the need for punctuation has changed significantly, and if we do use any type of punctuation in a text message we should be very careful and ensure we understand its current meaning.

When it comes to the field of translation, any translator concerned about producing quality translations should master the use of all punctuation signs used in their working languages.

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