Aah, the full stop – that simple punctuation mark used in just about every piece of text you read. Its main function, as you well know, is to mark the end of a sentence that isn’t a question or an exclamation. Like this:
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
Yet this humble punctuation mark can do so much more. It can be used for dramatic effect in informal writing. Like this:
Worst. Day. Ever.
Or even before the @ sign in your tweets to make sure that everyone sees your mention. Like this:
But seriously, in the English language, the full stop has its own set of rules and sometimes it’s just as important that you don’t use it.
For example, did you know that in British English, abbreviations like Dr and Mrs shouldn’t take a full stop? The rule is that if the abbreviation uses the first and last consonants of a word, no full stop is necessary.
And if an abbreviation consists of the first letters of each word, we use the first letter of each word without full stops.
But for abbreviations which consist of the first letter or first few letters of the word, we do use a full stop.
Likewise, abbreviations from another language take the full stop:
R.S.V.P (Répondez s’il vous plaît)
e.g. (exempli gratia)
i.e. (id est)
There are those who say that the full stop is dying, that using a full stop, especially in text messaging is a sign of insincerity. I’m not so sure about that. I still use them. To me, it’s proper English; I’m an editor after all. Yes, yes, I know all about the evolution of language. I know that language is forever changing and perhaps one day there will be no punctuation at all. For now though, the full stop still has a place in my book.
Long live the full stop!
If you’re interested in the rules of punctuation, have a look at this post, in which I share everything I know about using the full stop in parentheses (or brackets).
Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor
I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content. I am an internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience, specialising in education, lifestyle and literacy.
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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