Full stops in essays and term papers

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1. Full stops in essays (a full stop is sometimes called a ‘period’) are used at the end of complete sentences – like this one.

2. The only common exception to this rule occurs when the sentence is a question or an exclamation (both of which should be avoided in academic essays).

Is this question really necessary?
What a mess!

Notice that both these marks of punctuation have their own built-in full stop.

3. The stop is also used following abbreviations:

ibid.     No. 1     ff.     e.g.

4. The stop is not necessary following common titles which are shortened forms of a word (technically, contractions):

Dr     Mr     St     Mme

5. Full stops are not necessary after the initial capital letters commonly used as abbreviations for the titles of organisations and countries:


6. They are not used where the initial letters of a standard work of reference is used as an abbreviated title:

OED [Oxford English Dictionary]
DNB [Dictionary of National Biography]
PMLA [Papers of the Modern Languages Association]

7. No full stop is required if a sentence ends with a title or an abbreviation which contains its own punctuation:

He is the editor of Which?

She gave her address as ‘The Manor, Wilts.’

8. Full stops should not be used after titles, headings, or sub-headings.

The Turn of the Screw
Industrial Policy Report

9. The stop is normally placed inside quotation marks but outside a parenthesis:

"What joy we had that particular day."
Profits declined (despite increased sales).

10. However, if the quotation is part of another statement, or the parenthesis is a complete sentence, the full stop goes inside:

Mrs Higginbottam whispered "They’re coming".

There was an earthquake in Osaka. (Another had occurred in Tokyo the year previously.)

© Roy Johnson 2003

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Full stops in essays Writing Essays

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