If you've ever watched Law and Order, Alias, or even Meet the Parents,you probably know a thing or two about how to read people. Watch where their eyes go, read their body language, listen to the tone of their voice-it will all give you little clues to tell if theyNore sincere, if they are lying, if they are interested in you or if they're just bored. Unfortunately, today's dating scene comes with one secret weapon designed to break you down: texting.

A text has no body language and no tone, it's just flat words on a shiny LCD. So how do you read a text without having a daylong agony-fest over what it actually means? Here's the go-to guide for what she's actually saying:

Periods. Any time she writes a period at the end of the text (when the otherwise general lack of words would suffice to show that the thought is over) she means one of two things: demanding or pissed off. Probably at you. If you're getting a lot of them, it a safe bet that you're in trouble.

Exclamation Point! This is a universal sign of excitement, and it means she wants you to immediately picture her smiling and eager. Generally, a good thing, unless she's got energy to beat out the energizer bunny.

Question Mark? Frequent question marks-especially when there isn't really a question, like "We'll meet up later?" which means she's harboring some serious insecurities about your relationship.

What's Up? If this is all the text says, it means she's trying to get in without being clingy or demanding. It's a conversation starter that she hopes will earn her a few text messages and maybe even a rendezvous at the end. She's playing it cool but wants you to be thinking about her.

Later. If she's a buddy, later is totally standard. If she's your leading lady, later is not good. Whatever you just asked her, she doesn't want to do it and she's sincerely hoping you'll take the hint.

Seriously? Other than a sign that she's not taking you at your word (or she generally doesn't believe you) this is also probably a good hint that she watches too much Grey's Anatomy. Need to reconnect? Catch a couple episodes to find out what you can do to bring a little more McDreaminess into her life.

NicknameJust like hitting in third grade, nicknames are good, and especially good if she's using some of her limited per-text character allowance to do it. Nicknames-made more powerful in space restricted texting when it's obvious who the text is going to-are always a reminder of special connections. With your friends they generally allude to fun times, and a girl it's an establishment of intimacy. So be warned, if she's jumping on the nickname train too early, she might be a clinger.