Ahh, the dot. Perhaps the most confusing of all the punctuation family’s brothers and sisters. Much has been written regarding the addition of the Period to the end of a text message. The freedom that’s arisen from the recent regression of grammar in statements, and the ability to create a fluid ongoing conversation in its absence. Add a Period to a statement, and a certain visual gravity can weigh down a thought, turning a lighthearted
Hmm that could work
into the more grave
Hmm that could work.
We have seen grammar in texting evolve to the point that our natural default is to use no grammar whatsoever, even to indicate pauses. So much do we fear a misinterpretation of intent or tone that the entire system of visual signaling has started to become omitted from our digital communication. And so as eloquently stated by Ben Crair in his brilliant article “The Period is Pissed,” when we come across a period in text messages one must ask themselves what in the blazes it’s doing in there. What does it mean? He interviewed Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania for the piece.
“In the world of texting and IMing … the default is to end just by stopping, with no punctuation mark at all,” Liberman wrote me. “In that situation, choosing to add a period also adds meaning because the reader(s) need to figure out why you did it. And what they infer, plausibly enough, is something like ‘This is final, this is the end of the discussion or at least the end of what I have to contribute to it.’”
The Period’s crazy cousin Ellipses has seen its fame reach new heights as its meaning has become so much greater than simply a dramatic pause. The Ellipses is now an accepted breath sometimes not once, not twice, not even thrice but in some cases up to five times per sentence. Its meaning has overtaken numerous other grammatical symbols previously known to have a purpose. In “What the …” Matthew J.X. Malady remarks that despite this evolution there is rarely confusion regarding the intent of the message composer:
“There were ellipses used in lieu of commas. Ellipses as question-mark replacements. In some instances, it was ellipses instead of a single period at the end of a statement, or 10 dots spanning two lines on my phone’s screen. What a mess! And yet at no point in reading the mom text or any of the others did I find myself confused as to what the message senders were attempting to communicate.”
And so as we find ourselves at the crossroads between three distinct paths- no grammar, an increasingly assertive/borderline aggressive Period, and an all-encompassing yet perhaps ultimately meaningless Ellipses, I want to pose a seemingly underrepresented dot pairing to you: What in the world are we to think of the more rare but no less potent DOUBLE DOT?
The Period as well as the Ellipses have distinct and intentional purposes in a sentence because they are created by distinct and intentional movements of the hand. You press a Period key once, bam. End of story. Hold that key down for a bit, and tada! Ellipses. But that Double Dot, that is an entirely different story. Somewhere in the land between an end and merely a pause lies a pair of dots whose meaning remains unclear as the physicality behind their creation can be either intentional or accidental. Sometimes the accident is so visually appealing it becomes the intent. Because of this ambiguity, the dot pairing itself creates an ambiguity that when left alone can be an end or conversely a beginning to a conversation. For a visual aid in understanding the perceived intent behind this bonanza of dots, regard the following.
Interestingly, the more dots we add to this statement, the less assuring the response seems to be. Though this goes well into the spectacular Quadro-Dot set that in my own experience comes from those in a more meditative state, it’s possible to see how the Double appears almost as a stutter step. Did they really mean that that sounds ok? Do they even care about what I’m saying? Inna Komarovsky, an illustrator and Rhode Island School of Design alum, works with all things visual on a daily basis. Her conclusions regarding the Double Dot pairing is that it’s entirely possible they are creating an additional passive-aggressive approach by softening original intent: “I think some people try to soften the single dot by changing it into an ungrammatical comma, an ellipsis, an emoticon, or an m-dash. Maybe actually those are things I do to soften the single dot….”. Worth noting, Inna did end with a Quadro-Dot, which to me meant she had ruminated on this for a bit.
And so, should you receive this double dot, this potentially accidental or even passive-aggressive foray into grammar, my advice to you is this: If it’s something that is not a relationship killer, an ice cream flavor you’d like to pick up for example, let the Double D be and get whatever flavor you’d like. I always say that if someone doesn’t speak up, then I can eat whatever ice cream I’d like. If it’s more important, first of all probably don’t use texts to figure out an answer. But if you happen to be texting about say another person’s interest in you or someone else, dig further. And for crying out loud, use a Period.
If you liked this post, go check out The Simulacra, Simulation and the Pseudo-reality of Online Dating.
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