If I understand the current paradigm correctly, readers of newspaper columns are generally a bit of an older demographic than those who rely solely on online sources for their news and/or opinion. If that is indeed the case, I will, in this, be communicating with an audience that is naturally sympathetic to my plight:
My daughter gets upset when I use proper punctuation in my texts to her.
This storm has been growing for a few months now, looming ever nearer on the horizon, clouds growing darker and more ominous with each "breach of text etiquette" I supposedly engage in. And it almost invariably centers on what is very literally the smallest item in all of English grammar: the period. Yes, I am talking about that little dot that came after the word period in the last sentence and before the word yes in this one, and will now occur right here after the word well as well.
"Why did you end that text with a period? That sounded angry"
Yes, I know I do not have a period after the word "angry" in that last sentence, but neither did she, so the quote is both accurate and demonstrative of the issue. When I first received one of those texts I was utterly bewildered. To begin with, texts have no "sound"; they are silent words on a screen. But more importantly, a period merely denotes the end of a sentence and has done so for time immemorial. Nonetheless, my daughter insisted rather vehemently that one must never use a period at the end of a text.
This, naturally, led to me sending her several rapid-fire texts ending with question marks, exclamation marks, hyphens, parenthesis marks, ellipses, ampersands, dollar signs, hashtags (which, by the way, used to be called "pound signs) and emoji ranging from cats to dogs to horses to noses to things I have not yet been able to identify.
All of which she was fine with, so long as there were no periods.
The battle has continued to rage and last night escalated to a new level. She texted to ask if she could stay out a bit later, to which I responded "sure." I patted myself on the back for being a good dad; she has been a trustworthy daughter, and therefore I demonstrated my trust in her by summarily extending her curfew.
But less than a minute later she called me, on speaker phone, so that she and her friends could all explain to me why periods sound "angry" at the end of a text. I did my best to explain to all of them (who were chirping like a flock of angry seagulls) that I have been using proper grammar and punctuation for nearly five decades now and have no intention of changing. All of that fell on deaf ears, though, so I quickly fired back a few more texts, "yo homey like das good ya no, I mean like amiright?!?!?!" and "An groovy to!" (Followed by several emoji) then "I'm hip like da bees knees, gnarly"
To which I received a smiley face with "thank u"
In other words, I cannot possibly win this battle.
What I can do, I suppose, is be grateful that all three of my young adult children still love to talk to their mother and me. We started life with them "goo gooing" and "gah gahing," and have now progressed to sitting in our master bedroom each night and talking about most everything before we have our family prayer time together. Solomon in Proverbs 1:8 told his son, "Hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother." Apparently, Rehoboam had a good enough relationship with his father and mother that he was well conversant with both, and it thrills my heart to no end that Dana and I and our children have that same atmosphere in our home. We may clash on texting styles, but at least we communicate, by that means and by many others.
If I could apply these thoughts to society, my conclusion would be two-fold. One, moms and dads should never go a day without truly communicating with their children. Go ahead and let Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" play in your head for the rest of the day as you muse on that truth, fellow oldsters. Two, to the whippersnapper generation coming up now, please try to understand that periods in texts are not signs of anger from us. In fact, we punctuate because we care too much to raise children who do not know the difference between "Let's go eat, Fido!" and "Let's go eat Fido"
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.