Full stop: more than end of sentence symbol

The full stop (.), full point (both British English) or period (American) is apparently the simplest of all punctuation marks. It is almost everywhere at any given time, showing the end of a declarative sentence, inserted into an abbreviation, and so on.

However, it is sometimes more complicated.

Let’s look at these examples:

  1. The boy has completed the first phase of the task.
  2. The floor is clean.
  3. They came for us. Just for us.

The first two examples are both conventional and straightforward, which means we are used to using them; but the third appears strange because it looks like we’ve divided a sentence into two.

To explain the above and more, let’s simplify what we use full stops to achieve.

  • To end a declarative sentence

Examples:

  1. I’m going to the mall.
  2. It’s a good day to go to the beach, swim, relax, and have some fun.
  • To separate a conventional sentence from a particular group of words that forms an emphasis.

Examples:

  1. They are the best. No doubt.
  2. All Africans are not black. Absolutely not.
  • Used within or at the end of an abbreviation or initial.

Examples: e.g., a.m., etc., Prof., W.F. Kumuyi.

Note: do not use suspension point (…) after etc.

However, the use of the full stop in abbreviation is still confusing to some. While some write Mr. or Col. Duncan, others write them as Mr or Col Duncan, the difference being full stops after titles.

Let’s look into that with these points:
* In both British and American English, when we use initial letters to represent a group of words that form the name of an organisation, we do not normally use a full stop, e.g. CNN, UK, LASTMA, NEMA.

However, Americans use the full stop as an alternative style for certain acronym such as U.S.

* When using the first and last letters of a word in British English, you don’t need a full stop at the end. Examples are: Mr, Mrs, Dr, Ltd.

However, some American writers use a full stop for each of these words. This implies that their style is either with full stop or without it.

* Conventionally, you should use a full stop if an abbreviation consists of only the first part of a word, e.g. Wed., Nov., Col.

* When abbreviating a company’s name, use it as used by the company.

Generally, the practice is to use full stops for initials with small letters (e.g., p.m., a.m.) and short forms (Inc., Rev.), while you leave them out of capital letters (CNN, NTA).

Note: when a full stop ends an abbreviation and it is at the end of a sentence, don’t use another full stop.

Despite the aforementioned points, the use of full stops in abbreviations is becoming less required. Thus, it might be completely removed from them in the future.

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