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A heuristic approach to establishing punctuation convention in instant messaging

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2 Author(s)
L. Zhou ; Dept. of Inf. Syst., Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA ; Dongsong Zhang

Instant Messaging (IM) features informal writing styles such as the omission of punctuation. Punctuation plays an important role in representing prosody and facilitating syntactic processing during communication. The discrepancy between the recognized importance and actual inadequate usage of punctuation in IM calls for establishing punctuation convention for more effective online communication. The research uniquely reported here addressed two research questions. The first was whether punctuation had an impact on the effectiveness of IM. The results of an empirical study showed that the majority of surveyed participants perceived punctuation to be somewhat important. This led to the investigation of the second research question: how to restore omitted punctuation in instant messaging to help develop punctuation convention effectively? We designed and implemented a technical solution for recovering punctuation based on heuristics rules and an evaluation of this approach showed satisfactory performance. A detailed analysis of punctuation in archived instant messages revealed several patterns of omitted punctuation. The findings of this research not only advance our understanding of the stylistic convention, but also provide positive evidence for establishing punctuation convention in IM. As IM continues to pervade daily communication, punctuation convention in IM deserves closer attention.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication  (Volume:48 ,  Issue: 4 )