The other day, I was taking a mid-morning walk with a few coworkers and the subject of punctuation and meaning came up. Specifically, when someone ends an email: “Thanks.” Sure, “thanks” is a nice word. It is intended to express gratitude, after all. But ending it with a period, I’ve observed, often conveys anger and produces anxiety for the recipient of the message.
Heck, even a sentiment as kind as, “I hope you have a good weekend,” can come off as bitter when written: “Have a good weekend.”
But there’s a delicate balance to strike. For instance, sometimes I feel that I overuse punctuation. This particularly happens when I’m communicating with colleagues at our UK office, because I tend to use many more exclamation points than most of them do. For example:
Hope you had a good weekend! That manuscript is ready for you to review.
Probably a little overwhelming, looking back on it.
And then there’s the fact that punctuation — particularly the period — have gone by the wayside because of the advent of text and online messaging and posting on social media (notably Twitter, because of its character limit). Since the period is used less these days, when it is used, it adds more oomph, if you will, to the tone of the sentence.
Interestingly, though, in books I don’t think punctuation has changed all that much in recent years. Thank goodness. I’d be scratching my head day after day, trying to figure out if this sentence is too harsh: “A full moon hung in the October sky, white as a milk ball.” Or this one too enthusiastic: “They give you three different candy bars!”
Anyway, happy Friday.
— Eliza Leahy
Associate Editor, Capstone Fiction