The period is one of the first punctuation marks we learn when at the start of our reading and writing years. In comparison to other punctuation marks such as the semicolons or commas, the use of the period is easy to learn and understand.
The period is known as the “full stop” in British English and period or full point in North American English. The period is used for several purposes, and while that is our topic for discussion today, we’d have a brief discussion on the history and meaning of the period (Get a professional editor to take care of your writing).
The period is derived from Ancient Greece and was introduced by Aristophanes of Byzantium in the 3rd Century BCE. In Aristophanes system, there were several dots whose placement determined their meaning. The full stop marked the end of a completed thought or expression, and it was placed at the end of a sentence. The word period itself comes from the Latin word “periodos”. The punctuation mark shifted in symbol and even meaning from the time of Aristophanes to the 16th-century grammarians. By the nineteenth century, both American and British English were consistent in their usage of the terms “full stop and period.”
The period is used for different purposes with the most popular use being to mark the end of a declarative sentence (this is as opposed to an exclamation or a question). The mark is also usually used to indicate omitted characters or to indicate omitted words in an ellipsis (…) or after every individual letter used to stand for a name. A period is also used in British English at the end of word abbreviations (Rev.) However, it is not used after contractions like Revd (the American English uses it on both occasions. It is also used for the decimal point in Anglophone countries and may be called a point.
When To Use the Period
For Dramatic Effect
The period is used to create a dramatic effect in informal writing such as social media updates, text messages where a period comes between each word to create a pause and add impact. In other words, it can also be use for emphasis.
What. A. Goal.
Best. Movie. Ever.
Oh. My. God.
Periods can also be used to show abbreviated phrases or words.
Latin abbreviations are usually written with a period:
- a.m – ante meridiem (before midday)
- p.m – post meridiem (after midday)
- i.e – id est (in other words)
- e.g – exempli gratia (for example)
There are several recommendations for this use of periods. Many universities are not in support of using Latin abbreviations at all in academic English.
In Time Abbreviations
p.m (post meridiem ) and a.m (ante meridiem ) are written in lower case with two periods in British English.
- 11 p.m.
- 2.20 a.m.
In Australian and North American English, there are no periods. However, North America flavors and capitals and no periods:
- 11 PM
- 2.20 AM
North America (No periods, lower case)
The period is used in American English for titles in such as; Mrs. Mr. Ms. Dr.
British English, on the other hand, flavors writing titles without a period. (Mrs, Mr, Dr…)
This is perhaps the most common use of the period. The period is used to indicate the end of a sentence that are not exclamations or questions.
It is common in North American English to use periods after initials. For example
- J. Biden
- George W. Bush
There are writing styles that discourage the use of periods after initials. Some of these writing styles believe selling out names in full instead of abbreviating them avoid ambiguity.
Also learn about other punctuation marks like ellipses, commas, colons, semicolons, hyphens, dashes, parentheses, brackets, braces, question marks, quotation marks, exclamation marks, and apostrophes)