You might be affronted by that heading, but if you go look at your recent chats, you’ll quickly see that the full stop, a once undisputed part of communication, is becoming redundant. Primarily used to indicate the end of a sentence, it is now either being replaced by new things like line breaks, single speech bubbles on WhatsApp, emojis and hashtags, or it’s being left out altogether because it isn’t needed anymore. I took a look at informal communication platforms and how we communicate on them to figure out why this pillar of punctuation is being used less and less.
Instant messaging, like WhatsApp, has become the main method of online communication for billions of people. On this platform, we tend to send only one message (or speech bubble) at a time, usually containing only one sentence, a few words or even just one letter. Most of the time you can safely assume that one message is equal to one sentence. Therefore, there’s no need to indicate the end of that sentence with a full stop; the fact that one message was sent with only a few words in it indicates this more than enough.
Language purists might say that’s pure laziness. And they’d be correct in saying so, but this laziness is also the second reason for the disappearance of the full stop. Of course, you can choose to view it not as laziness, but rather humanity’s intense desire to be effective and not waste any energy doing something redundant 😉 After all, why spend precious time typing a full stop when you could have simply sent the single message and started typing a new one?
In the previous paragraph, you might have noticed the third reason for the full stop’s demise: emojis.
These tiny pictures have really evolved from the original colon and bracket smiley face to a gallery of images that resembles something akin to the ancient Egyptians’ hieroglyphics. Emojis have made it possible to communicate via instant messaging without using words at all – a picture really says a thousand words. That single smiley face helps to convey feelings and a story all on its own, making it a quick and easy communication tool to use in our oh-so busy lives.
For the moment, however, they are used to enhance our written communication rather than replace it entirely. For example, when you receive a message merely saying “See you there” you might think that the other person isn’t really that keen on seeing you. However, if they respond with “See you there :)” those negative thoughts disappear and you know with more certainty that they’re happy to meet you. (Disclaimer: I know this isn’t the case for all people, but it’s a fact for many and can’t be ignored if you want to communicate effectively.)
As you can see in that example, and in your own communication no doubt, it’s become common to indicate the end of a sentence with emojis rather than the classic full stop. This ability to effortlessly convey feelings make emojis the perfect end to a sentence, but that leaves the full stop in somewhat of an awkward situation. Because *teeeechnically* you have to end a full sentence with a period, but in all honesty, it just looks lame to have both the emoji and the full stop at the end of a sentence. Observe:
See you there 🙂
See you there. 🙂
See you there 🙂 .
Is it just me, or is the first option the only one that actually looks pleasing to the eye? In the second option, the emoji is all alone and it looks out-of-place. But it still looks better than the last sentence. There the full stop looks like it got lost whilst heading somewhere where it still had a function… Also, should there be a space after the emoji and before the full stop? I’d like to hear your opinion on this, but for me the first sentence is the only one that makes stylistic sense.
With that, I conclude that yes, when it comes to informal writing, such as social media posts and instant messaging, the full stop is definitely entering the period of extinction. And although I’m sure it won’t completely disappear from our punctuation arsenal any time soon, it’s very interesting to note how these new methods of communication are influencing our way of typing and it makes me curious about how language will continue to change and develop during the technological era.
Till next time 😉