When Did the Period Get so Angry?

A note about punctuation: in journalism school, I was taught that as a writer you have three opportunities to utilize an exclamation point. To use one more often is overzealous, unwarranted and can detracts from your prose. As a human, I have determined that semicolons suck. When people use them improperly, which is frequently, it makes me want to tear my eyes out. They are not periods. They are not colons. They are not a fancy break to make you feel validated as an individual putting pen to paper.

They are pronounced commas. Pronounced is the operative word here because most people who write, myself included, suffer from what a teacher I had in 6th grade called “comma joy.” I treat them like pepper and put them on everything but you can’t do that with a semicolon.

And don’t get me started on question marks. The entire art has been bastardized by the way in which my generation communicates which is to say, no longer in the declarative form. All of our comments are now actually questions. You know what I mean, right? Here’s an example: instead of saying, “I am going to walk to Juice Press for lunch,” because I am a product of Gen. Y, the melodic tone of my voice has my statement register more accurately as a question so it sounds more like: “I am going to walk to Juice Press for lunch?”

See but the period, the period never did wrong by me. It never pretended to be anything that it wasn’t because it never wanted to be — it was the Zeus of grammar. That is, until now, as aptly pointed out by a story editor at The New Republic who has detected a new-age note of anger in the way in which our dearly beloved period is now used.

Figure this: you text your mom to say, “hey, what’s up?”

She writes back: “nothing”

You think, hmmm, my mom isn’t so busy today, okay! Good! I hope she’s relaxing!*

Now figure you ask the same question but she responds: “nothing.”

What do you think? If you’re a woman, probably that she is super extremely insurmountably pissed off at you. That she may or may not have already disowned but that is still TBD. And why do you feel this way? Because of that damn, conclusive period.

So how do we navigate these murky waters? I propose a new symbol to indicate the structure of our words — it looks like a pound sign but it’s called the hashtag. Have you heard of it?

[Our Simplest Puncutation Mark Has Become a Sign of Anger via The New Republic]

* Oops. I just used all my exclamation points.

  • CDJ

    ha. this is so true. same reason why I write “kk” instead of “k” or “ok” in texts. I NEVER say “kk” out loud though, because that sounds stupid.

  • I teach grammar, and I’ve never heard of this…nor have I ever found it to be a problem. I don’t get many text messages, so that might be it. 😉

    I’ll poll my students on Wednesday and hopefully they’ll have something better to say than my “oh well, guess I won’t do that anymore.”

    Or I will keep doing it.


  • Sabrina Haskinson

    For me mk means happy, ok means annoyed, and Okay. means I am pissed and you’re gonna die….

  • Alejandra


  • Amandine

    Can you write something on Marilyn Monroe?

  • Simone Cumberbatch

    Semicolons actually do work as periods; they link two independent clauses that are closely related, and independent clause is the grammar term for a sentence. So there’s that.

    • Leandra Medine

      But periods as a rule, not just in the case of linked clauses, separate sentences that are related AND not. My point was simply that if you don’t want to, you don’t have to use semicolons at all when writing.

      • And who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma? 😉 😉

        • Meaghan Munro

          did not care at all about the oxford comma until I learnt it’s proper function and why they propose you use it. Linguistics is a bitch.

  • Nora kurdy

    The angry period is a passive aggressive way of expression. Try: Happy Birthday. That will not be lost on anyone, especially when they respond: Thank you.

  • Lieryn

    I completely agree. Especially when texting a new friend/potential love interest. If he responds with, “Yes, I am.” I automatically think the conversation is over, and he doesn’t want to talk (via text) anymore. Periods are so final and absolute. See what I mean?

  • Misha

    This article just made me laugh so much.This always happens to me!
    I am always trying to attribute the period to being a sign of anger/unhappiness towards

  • Kari

    When responding to a text that has upset me (but I’m not willing to admit it) my go to response is “ok.” I feel it perfectly encapsulates my passive aggressive fury.