Unless we’re exclaiming, questioning or trailing off, full stops tend to be the punctuation mark that get the final say. By far one of the most popular and most used punctuation mark, the full stop is generally the first bit of punctuation we learn after we can start writing sentences.
So, if they’re that plain and simple, why bother with a blog post? Well, they have plenty of other uses as well, and I want to highlight what not to do with a full stop. In my experience in editing documents as well as reading newspapers, journals and other publications, I have seen plenty of full stops used in the wrong way. Wouldn’t you hate to find out that, even though you felt so confident with your skills with the full stop, you were wrong the whole time?
For your reference, my main resource for this information is the Australian Style manual for authors, editors and printers.
I think we’re all clear that full stops are mostly used to end a sentence. They are also used for answers to questions and other sentence fragments, such as in direct speech. They are used as decimal points when numbers are involved. You can see them in website addresses (URLs), such as www.taleinferno.com, as well as in section breaks (section 1.4 and 8.2) and when writing the time, for example, it is 3.12pm when I am writing this!
It’s when they start being used for things like shortened forms where they can be confusing. My first recommendation if you are a corporate or freelance writer or editor is to go with whatever the organisation says in their style guide. If you’re not, then you may need to do further research after reading this because it can vary depending on where you are and how you use it.
Popular shortened forms, such as e.g., i.e. and etc., can be a matter of debate depending on how many full stops there should be. Some organisations like the clean look and write them without them. It all depends on where you are and what you are doing, but I would recommend using the full stops!
Some geographical shortened forms take full stops, such as C. (Cape) and I. (Island). Others, like Mt (Mountain) do not take the full stop. Both days and months when shortened, such as Mon. and Apr., should use full stops. Some organisation shortened forms, like Pty Ltd, don’t use full stops, but Co. and Inc. do. Then, of course, you have shortened forms in referencing, such as ch. For chapter or pp. for pages.
Are you confused yet? As I wrote before, it may be worth doing some research regarding what your organisation, country or state does since it varies across the board. Maybe keeping a fact sheet or guide handy will help!
When not to use a full stop
Now, what about when you shouldn’t use them? From my explanation above, some might be obvious. Nonetheless, here’s a list of what not to do:
Got it? I hope so! This little but popular punctuation mark may seem easy to use but does have some confusing rules. Now, you should be a step further in understanding it. Again, make sure to check with your organisation’s style guide if you’re a corporate or freelance writer or editor, or just in general depending on where you are in the world!
If you have any questions, let me know in the comments or on social media and I’ll do my best to help you!
That’s it from me. Remember to ignite the story and I’ll see you again soon!
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.