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11 Points
11 Points Guide To Hooking Up
11 Punctuation Marks That Give Your Text Messages Secret Meanings
written by Sam Greenspan

Proper use of punctuation can get you laid.


The power of punctuation.
That's the thesis of this list, and something I genuinely believe. People have become increasingly accepting of communication almost exclusively via text message, even during the early stages of courtship. (Yes, I said courtship. I'm 30 years old and occasionally talk like I'm three times that. Let's call it part of my charm and move on.)

Texting (and BBMing, and Twitter DMing, etc.) removes the vocal cues we used to use to over-analyze if someone was into us. Now we have to look at 140 to 160 characters... and go even more overboard in analyzing.

I always fancied myself something of a text message seduction savant, and, although I now have a girlfriend, thus obviating the need to carefully craft woo-pitching texts... the skills have never left.

So here are 11 punctuation marks (or collections of marks) that can significantly assist you in your text-based flirtation.

  1. I think the guy with the pizza is texting the girl.
    Punctuation: Exclamation point!
    Meaning: Something between playfulness and desperation.

    The exclamation point is the most valuable punctuation mark you have in your arsenal, but it's also the most dangerous. Because when you start overusing it, you look like an overeager, un-confident amateur.

    However, when used properly, an exclamation point can set a light, flirtatious tone... can convey excitement... and can even demonstrate interest in the person. Check out this comparison:
    OK, sounds good. Not sure if we're going but I might see you at the party. If you leave, let me know.
    Very matter-of-fact. Business-like. Does the person who sent this text really want to meet up or is he or she just blowing you off? Hard to say.
    OK, sounds good. Not sure if we're going but I might see you at the party. If you leave, let me know!
    No doubt about it, he or she wants to stay informed on your plans and will make a clear effort to meet up. The exclamation point here shows the person writing is excited, engaged and interested.

    However, like I said earlier, too many exclamation points comes off as needy...
    OK, sounds good! Not sure if we're going but I might see you at the party! If you leave, let me know!
    The first one is OK... the second one is way too overeager... and the third one is just flat-out desperate. So use exclamation points properly, judiciously and strategically to send the exact right message.

  2. Punctuation: Semicolon;
    Meaning: You're trying too hard.

    No one uses semicolons in day-to-day life. It's a literary piece of punctuation, not a colloquial one. So using a semicolon in a text shows you've thought out, revised and over-edited your message... so much so that you needed to use a semicolon to get two separate thoughts into one sentence.

    That means you're trying too hard, and there's nothing worse than trying too hard. A semicolon in a text is the equivalent of putting on makeup to go to the gym -- it seems out of place and is guaranteed to backfire.

  3. Punctuation: Period.
    Meaning: You don't want to keep going back and forth all night.

    In texting, you don't have to end a sentence with any punctuation. It's totally acceptable to just let it dangle. So using a period ends up presenting a certain air of finality to a statement. Let's look at an example:
    Sounds good, I'm heading out right now.
    The meaning is clear: We've had our back-and-forth over text but I'm leaving the house and it is done. I have plans and they do not include continuing this text conversation. Period.

    Now compare that to this...
    Sounds good, I'm heading out right now
    See the difference? Without the period, it feels much more open-ended. Feels much less like the end point of a conversation. It's an incomplete fragment that's just another line in your discussion... and this person is waiting for you to respond and keep things going.

  4. Punctuation: {Left and right braces}
    Meaning: You're approaching this too logically.

    In my experience, no one uses the left and right braces unless they're a big math person or programmer. Either way, they're looking at the current romantic situation very, very logically...
    if (texts == playful) {
      ask("Do you want to grab a drink sometime?")
    }
    else if (texts <= hostile) {
      date_prospects['current'] = "questionable";
      date_prospects['future'] = "still possible, wait and see";
    }
    else {
      die();
    }
    Programming jokes! Hooray!


  5. Punctuation: Apostrophe'
    Meaning: You pay attention to the little things.

    In text land, apostrophes have become endangered species. Youd is just as acceptable at you'd. Id is just as acceptable as I'd. Youre is just as acceptable as you're. (Or, in the case of Internet comments, your. And it's taking everything in my being to keep from launching into an its/it's rant here.)

    So when you actually take the time to use an apostrophe, it means something. I like to think it sends a subconscious message that you take the extra time to do things right. And that effort, that giving, would translate into skills in a relationship.

    Or, at least, into one extremely memorable sexual escapade.

  6. Punctuation: Asterisk*
    Meaning: You're afraid the person isn't as cool as you.

    The main reason people use asterisks in a text is to censor a word:
    How crazy! I was parking my car and a guy on a bike called me a f***stick.
    And there's really only one reason to censor a swear word: If you're afraid the person's not as cool as you. Because if they were, they'd run around dropping f-bombs and c-bombs and tf-bombs without the censorship.

    So asterisks can send an implicit message that you don't think that person likes it raw, like you (and Ol' Dirty Bastard). Save the asterisks for funny usage, something like this:
    I bet you $65,000* that I am a better bowler than you.

    *-prize may be substituted for firm handshake or one turn at claw game.
    Now that's some asterisking for ass.

  7. Punctuation: Ellipses...
    Meaning: You want the person to read between the lines.

    Using ellipses in a text is your way of saying what you either can't say yet (because it'd fall under the "too soon" umbrella), or what you are afraid to say (because you're afraid you'll seem disagreeable or high maintenance).

    Check out this example:
    Yeah, GI Joe could work... I've also heard good things about The Ugly Truth... either way, meet you there at 8?
    It's clear what that text really means: "I'd rather die than see 'GI Joe' and you're an idiot for suggesting that we go see it. I'd rather see a guaranteed-to-be-awful romantic comedy. And now, because this has gotten a little awkward, I think we should meet at the theater so I have an escape plan."

    You can also use ellipses in a positive way, to get the person's imagination going:
    Had maybe a few too many drinks last night... legs are sore from dancing... in the bathtub right now...
    That text takes three statements and just loads them with sexual undertones thanks to the ellipses.

    Unless a guy sent that text. Then the ellipses make all three statements even bigger turn-offs.


  8. Punctuation: Emoticons :) ;) :p :(
    Meaning: You want to bring the conversation to life.

    Texting is a faceless, emotionless means of communication. So no matter how immature and unoriginal they are, emoticons are often the best way to make your texts feel "3-D."

    Just avoid this one ))<>(( ... because, odds are, they won't know what it means and they'll Google it, and without the context of the movie, it really comes off as gratuitously disgusting.

  9. Punctuation: Question marks?
    Meaning: It depends on how many question marks you use.

    Question marks have a tendency to get stacked on each other. And with each stack, the meaning changes. Let's take a look.
    What time do you want to meet up?
    Simple, unassuming and friendly. Gets the point across, elicits a response but also drives toward a solution.
    What time do you want to meet up??
    Looks like a typo. Two question marks have no purpose.
    What time do you want to meet up???
    Feels impatient. Immature, even. It's an aggressive question: It demands a response, and intimates that the response had better be to your liking.
    What time do you want to meet up????
    Cycles back to playful. Now it's a joke. If you said it on the phone, you might sing-say that entire question.
    What time do you want to meet up?????
    Too many. Now it's just confusing. Why were five question marks necessary? This seems like the kind of person who would write "kewl."

    So... use one question mark to just move the conversation along, and four to move it along flirtatiously. Anything else and you're doing it wrong.

  10. Punctuation: Plus sign+
    Meaning: You've got it bad.

    If you use the plus sign in lieu of the word "and" or an ampersand, it means that you really like the person.

    When couples carve their names into trees, they use a plus sign between them. "Laura + Mike. July 1991. I do it for you." "Joe + Susan. January 1998. Our hearts will go on." "Logan + Madison. August 2009. P-p-p-poker face."

    A plus sign doesn't simply translate to "and"... it's a symbolic unification. So if you send the text:
    Me + you should go to Medieval Times
    You're really carving those Medieval Times plans -- and the love therein -- into a tree. (And that kind of eco-vandalism might sit OK with the Green Knight, but no one else.)

  11. Punctuation: Tilde~
    Meaning: You're either a punctuation master not confined to the traditional system... or you're Hispanic.

    Either way, you're probably a really good time!

This list was originally published on Friday, August 14, 2009 at 12:01:00 AM under the category Dating & Sex.
It currently has View Comments.

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