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Reality Check Full stops and young people: can this be true?

E G Logan

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At the risk of sounding like a High Court judge: I was left indignant and doubtful by the following story in today's 'Daily Telegraph'. (I won't post link because there is a firewall.)

Can we discuss? Surely that's not true?
How do they manage books? Even simplest recipes, instructions, notices have full stops (periods, for US readers).

This is just a snippet from the start of the article:

Generation Z feels intimidated by full stops, experts find

Linguists believe that full stops have fallen out of fashion with young people because they 'signify an abrupt or angry tone of voice’

As teenagers and those in their early twenties, Generation Z, have grown up with phones in their hands, using short messages to communicate with one another, and the punctuation mark has fallen out of fashion and become a symbol of curt passive-aggression. [Curious use of unnecessary 'and' by D Tel.]

Linguists have been debating the use of the full stop and why some young people interpret a correctly punctuated text as a sign of annoyance.

Some argued that the full stop had become redundant, as a text was now ended simply by sending it, and the sentence did not need to be finished with a punctuation mark.
 

Jake E

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Hmm...I rather suspect that's The Telegraph stoking up some predictably ageist tut-tutting among its regular readership.

I would take that article with a serious dash of salt.

As a teacher, I can testify to the notion that children (under 11s) are intimidated by the full stop. There's a confusion about where they go and why and how they work. I spent much of my year, (I taught year 3) trying to explain the difference between a comma and a full stop (Don't even get me started on colons and semi colons), and why comma splices were bad grammar. The notion of clauses and sentences, and how one is made from the other is complex, so they don't bother. I read and marked so many written peices (200 words or more) that didn't have a single full stop but a ton of commas. They just didn't understand. Thankfully, I managed to teach it out of them (most of them) by the end of the year.
But some kids never learn despite a teachers best efforts. They just don't really care. "If you got what I meant then it's fine."
That's my experinece of it anyway.
J
 

Eva Ulian

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Some time ago there was a big issue about the possessive and said they would leave out the apostrophe or the s itself- I don't remember which because I kept on using the possessive no matter what- anyone know if in effect it has been abolished?
 

KateESal

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As a teacher, I can testify to the notion that children (under 11s) are intimidated by the full stop.
Yes, I think primary-age writers who are still getting to grips with punctuation DO find full-stops a tricky concept. And I've certainly come across plenty of secondary-age students who don't always use them correctly. I'm not sure that's what this article is saying, though.

Using a full-stop in a one-sentence text or chat message seems unnecessary to many young people and I have some sympathy with that. Full-stops aren't really needed in that context. Personally, I try to use them because I came into this mode of speed-written, real-time, thumb-heavy informal communication at a later age and full-stop-usage is pretty much melded into my very core. But nowadays? Well, punctuation moves on just as the rest of language does and context is all.

From what I can tell, the article is expanding a noted reluctance to use full-stops in short, instant message conversations into a THING that somehow affects Generation Z in general. These young people and their snow-flakey rejection of the full-stop.... you know, like that. (I may be being unduly cynical about The Telegraph's motives in their angle on this particular story, in which case, I apologise).

It's an interesting discussion though. The evolution of punctuation, driven by the use of smartphone technology...
 

Jake E

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Some time ago there was a big issue about the possessive and said they would leave out the apostrophe or the s itself- I don't remember which because I kept on using the possessive no matter what- anyone know if in effect it has been abolished?

It's still taught in school in England, so not abolished. It is, once again, a complicated concept that children don't get unless taught explicitly. They often confuse it with the plural or with contractions. This confusion leads them to omit them entirely. It takes years of teaching and even then, many kids leave year 6 and go on to secondary school not understanding it.
 

Jake E

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Yes, I think primary-age writers who are still getting to grips with punctuation DO find full-stops a tricky concept. And I've certainly come across plenty of secondary-age students who don't always use them correctly. I'm not sure that's what this article is saying, though.

Using a full-stop in a one-sentence text or chat message seems unnecessary to many young people and I have some sympathy with that. Full-stops aren't really needed in that context. Personally, I try to use them because I came into this mode of speed-written, real-time, thumb-heavy informal communication at a later age and full-stop-usage is pretty much melded into my very core. But nowadays? Well, punctuation moves on just as the rest of language does and context is all.

From what I can tell, the article is expanding a noted reluctance to use full-stops in short, instant message conversations into a THING that somehow affects Generation Z in general. These young people and their snow-flakey rejection of the full-stop.... you know, like that. (I may be being unduly cynical about The Telegraph's motives in their angle on this particular story, in which case, I apologise).

It's an interesting discussion though. The evolution of punctuation, driven by the use of smartphone technology...


In those contexts, I guess, the full stop become a formality. Text are very seldom formal.
 

Eva Ulian

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At the risk of sounding like a High Court judge: I was left indignant and doubtful by the following story in today's 'Daily Telegraph'. (I won't post link because there is a firewall.)

Can we discuss? Surely that's not true?
How do they manage books? Even simplest recipes, instructions, notices have full stops (periods, for US readers).

This is just a snippet from the start of the article:

Generation Z feels intimidated by full stops, experts find

Linguists believe that full stops have fallen out of fashion with young people because they 'signify an abrupt or angry tone of voice’

As teenagers and those in their early twenties, Generation Z, have grown up with phones in their hands, using short messages to communicate with one another, and the punctuation mark has fallen out of fashion and become a symbol of curt passive-aggression. [Curious use of unnecessary 'and' by D Tel.]

Linguists have been debating the use of the full stop and why some young people interpret a correctly punctuated text as a sign of annoyance.

Some argued that the full stop had become redundant, as a text was now ended simply by sending it, and the sentence did not need to be finished with a punctuation mark.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if this in effect does happen since it reflects perfectly modern day ideology- instead of facing a problem, they get rid of it and pretend it doesn't exist.
 

Jake E

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I wouldn't be at all surprised if this in effect does happen since it reflects perfectly modern day ideology- instead of facing a problem, they get rid of it and pretend it doesn't exist.

I guess, much like the text speak of the early 00s, it is a product of technology. Ho wnts 2 typ al of the letrz in a msg wen u hv 2 prz the butns dwn lots of tims 2 get the rit 1?
less of an issue now that smart phones have proper keyboards.
But as my archaeology lecturer once said to me, "all of humanities greatest achievements have been made possible by sheer laziness. The pursuit of 'an easier way.'"
 

Jake E

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I agree, finding an easier way is always commendable- but not when the option is to completely annihilate the problem as the answer.

Absolutely! I couldn't agree more. Getting rid of a problem does not solve it. It moves it into someone else's inbox.
 

Robinne Weiss

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I think this is pretty blown out of context. Even I don't bother with a full stop at the end of a text (and I guarantee I'm not 'intimidated' by full stops). My students are a mixed group--some struggle with full stops. Others take to them just fine. Almost all of them eventually understand why and where they go. Quite a few of them learn the subtle art of full stops as literary devices to increase tension, speed up action, or show emphasis in dialogue. They're certainly not intimidated by full stops (and almost 40% of my students have English as a second language, so if there was a group you might expect to be intimidated, they would be it).
 

KateESal

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Yes, I'm also speaking from my own experiences teaching students for whom English is not their native language. They might be lazy or forgetful about full-stops, but they're not remotely intimidated by a dot on a page.

So, linguistics researchers have noticed younger people in particular don't bother putting full-stops on the end of their texts? Uh-huh. And now it's become a convention, as these things often do. Okay.

I agree with Robinne completely and as I said upthread, context is everything.

I think the full-stop will be with us for some time yet, period. :D
 

Hannah F

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There are questions to be asked of the research: what was the age and social demographic of the child-sample used? How much/what did the children read?

If children read little more that text messages, it may be difficult for them to understand the necessity of a full-stop, and perhaps, on these devices, full stops are being used as instruments of aggression. If children read books (paper or kindle), they are much more likely to be comfortable with full-stops.

Reading. Reading is what's required.

. . . Wait 'til they get to the Oxford comma!
 

Jake E

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There are questions to be asked of the research: what was the age and social demographic of the child-sample used? How much/what did the children read?

If children read little more that text messages, it may be difficult for them to understand the necessity of a full-stop, and perhaps, on these devices, full stops are being used as instruments of aggression. If children read books (paper or kindle), they are much more likely to be comfortable with full-stops.

Reading. Reading is what's required.

. . . Wait 'til they get to the Oxford comma!

In the catchment area of my school, reading was not a well liked or valued activity. Sadly, a minority of my students enjoyed reading and it showed in their attainment.
Reading is the greatest indicator of academic performance. If children don't read, they find school very challenging.
 

gbhunt

Geraldine Briony H
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Interesting insights. I was taking myself to task the other day because I was leaving out the full stop at the end of my texts (although I did put them between sentences, which shows how old I am because my texts are that long). It's like people who think that emails don't need to be properly constructed or punctuated. At some point, though, everyone is going to have to accept a system that allows the reader to understand what the writer is trying to say. Actually, in a way the emoji has become the full stop :) But I think we still need punctuation like we need time. The best definition I ever heard of 'time' was that it was the thing that stops everything from happening at once.
 

E G Logan

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(Don't even get me started on colons and semi colons),

Thank you for that.
Frightening, isn't it?

When I was a very young journalist training at DC Thomson & Co, Dundee...
on our first day, we were told that the only punctuation marks we were allowed to use were commas and full stops.

Naturally somebody objected.

The person in charge of us said:
"Everything else confuses the readers, people never use them right, and you'll manage fine with those two [commas and full stops]."

This was mainly about writing simple news stories, but I think for children who are just baffled, that might be the answer.
 

Jake E

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Thank you for that.
Frightening, isn't it?

When I was a very young journalist training at DC Thomson & Co, Dundee...
on our first day, we were told that the only punctuation marks we were allowed to use were commas and full stops.

Naturally somebody objected.

The person in charge of us said:
"Everything else confuses the readers, people never use them right, and you'll manage fine with those two [commas and full stops]."

This was mainly about writing simple news stories, but I think for children who are just baffled, that might be the answer.

I remember reading somewhere that newspapers are written so that people with a reading age of 12 can read it comfortably. Any truth to that?
 

CageSage

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Thank you for that.
Frightening, isn't it?

When I was a very young journalist training at DC Thomson & Co, Dundee...
on our first day, we were told that the only punctuation marks we were allowed to use were commas and full stops.

Naturally somebody objected.

The person in charge of us said:
"Everything else confuses the readers, people never use them right, and you'll manage fine with those two [commas and full stops]."

This was mainly about writing simple news stories, but I think for children who are just baffled, that might be the answer.
And, as always, it's about the audience of the intended words so that the message is clear and unambiguous. Always.
 

E G Logan

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I remember reading somewhere that newspapers are written so that people with a reading age of 12 can read it comfortably. Any truth to that?

You know, I'd never been told that before.
I was told, expletives deleted, that it is: "*** impossible to underestimate the capacity for misunderstanding of the average *** reader." (Not a DCT quote. Apart from the printers, in the basement, they were a remarkably unsweary lot.)

I have read that recipes require a reading age of 12-14. And having juggled with a ready-meal, a dictionary/phrase book and an oddly marked oven in one or two locations, I can believe it.
 

Hannah F

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And item assembly instructions are aimed at individuals with no reading ability at all !!!
 

Mythobeast

just some guy, you know?
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I think we can all agree that spoken languages aren't the same as written languages. Text-speak is a new medium that language is used over, and it has its own rules. Trying to force those rules onto the other usages, or even say that they're reflective of those other usages, is counter-productive.

Really, i don't think anyone is suggesting that such transposing should occur. The Daily Telegraph is creating a controversy that doesn't exist.
 

Jake E

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I think we can all agree that spoken languages aren't the same as written languages. Text-speak is a new medium that language is used over, and it has its own rules. Trying to force those rules onto the other usages, or even say that they're reflective of those other usages, is counter-productive.

Really, i don't think anyone is suggesting that such transposing should occur. The Daily Telegraph is creating a controversy that doesn't exist.

The Daily Telegraph is creating a controversy that doesn't exist.

Isn't that just a newspaper's job, ha.
 

Dean Baxter

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Hmm...I rather suspect that's The Telegraph stoking up some predictably ageist tut-tutting among its regular readership.

I would take that article with a serious dash of salt.
I do agree, but I have noticed some bizarre use of full stops on social media. I have one friend who randomly peppers his text with full stops, as if he doesn't know what to do with them. Example: 'Does anyone know. A good plasterer?' It's weird. I've also noticed random commas popping up in people's posts: 'Living in my van full time. What's the best way, 2 get heating and hot water?' I'm not snobby about this kind of thing, but my mind boggles at some people's lack of even a basic grasp of grammar.
 

Jake E

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I do agree, but I have noticed some bizarre use of full stops on social media. I have one friend who randomly peppers his text with full stops, as if he doesn't know what to do with them. Example: 'Does anyone know. A good plasterer?' It's weird. I've also noticed random commas popping up in people's posts: 'Living in my van full time. What's the best way, 2 get heating and hot water?' I'm not snobby about this kind of thing, but my mind boggles at some people's lack of even a basic grasp of grammar.

My father posted a long status on facebook yesterday. Not one full stops in it. There were, however, 23 commas.
 
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