If there’s one thing we should all know for sure at this point, it’s that how we communicate virtually is constantly in a state of flux. Whether it’s which emojis are “cool” or always sending a text (or email) as opposed to calling when possible, it can be hard to keep up with how our (totally innocent) communication style might be perceived by others.

That’s why, according to experts out there, you should think twice before adding a period to your text messages.

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The period is just a tiny little dot, and it seems so innocuous. We’ve used them in letters and emails, reports and articles, since basically forever – so how did they go from meaning “this sentence is over” to “maybe I hate your guts?”

Gretchen McCulloch, the bestselling author of Because Internet, spoke with Lifehacker on why she thinks the use of the period has come to indicate passive aggression.

One reason we don’t need periods as much in chat-based formats, she says, is that we don’t always need them to delineate between thoughts.

“We don’t always necessarily talk in complete sentences – we talk in utterances. So in casual writing, we’re always looking for ways to breaking up utterances that aren’t as necessarily ‘final’ as a period.”

And yes, she says that for many people, seeing a period there instead of just a sent message conveys emotion to the receiver.

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“…because anytime you do something that’s not the default, people have a tendency to interpret that as meaningful.”

Basically, many interpret punctuation in texts messages as conveying seriousness or a lowering of the pitch of your voice.

“So where the aggression, or passive aggressiveness, comes from is when that seriousness clashes with the message that’s being said.”

Ending a sentence with a period is positive, relaying excitement or positivity, while leaving off the punctuation renders a reply neutral.

Using a period, though, is deliberate and leaves the reader wondering how exactly you were feeling when you sent it.

That said, McCulloh says that it’s not always a bad thing. For instance, if you’re sending a text with multiple sentences that for some reason shouldn’t be an email, periods are necessary. Or, if you’re someone who always uses them out of habit, your contacts will be used to seeing them.

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Basically, there are no hard and fast rules, but as we all move to communicating more and more in text and not verbally or in person, it’s something to consider.

We all want to be as clear with our meaning as possible, so think about that period the next time before you just press the button and move on.