Full stops – how to use them
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Full stops – definition
Full stops are punctuation marks indicating a strong pause.
Full stops are used most commonly at the end of complete sentences – like this one.
- This is a short sentence. This is another.
- It happened suddenly in 1996.
- There are two reasons for this (in my opinion).
The full stop is the strongest mark of punctuation. It is sometimes called the ‘period’.
The stop is also used following many abbreviations.
NB! A full stop is not necessary if the sentence ends with a question or an exclamation mark. Got that?
Full stops are commonly placed after abbreviations:
ibid. – No. 1 – ff. – e.g. – etc.
The stop is normally placed inside quotation marks but outside brackets:
“What joy we had that particular day.”
Profits declined (despite increased sales).
However, if the quotation is part of another statement, the full stop goes outside the quote marks:
Mrs Higginbottam whispered “They’re coming”.
If the parenthesis is a complete sentence, the full stop stays inside the
There was an earthquake in Osaka. (Another had occurred in Tokyo the year previously.)
No full stop is required if a sentence ends with a question mark or an exclamation, or a title or abbreviation which contains its own punctuation:
Is this question really necessary?
What a mess!
He is the editor of Which?
She gave her address as ‘The Manor, Wilts.’
Full stops are not required after titles, headings, or sub-headings:
The Turn of the Screw
Industrial Policy Report
The stop is not necessary following common titles which are shortened forms of a word (technically, ‘contractions’):
Dr – [Doctor]
Mr – [Mister]
St – [Street]
Mme – [Madame]
Full stops are not necessary after the capital letters used as abbreviations for titles of organisations and countries:
NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation
UNO – United Nations Organisation
USA – United States of America
They are not used where the initials of a standard work of reference are used as an abbreviated title:
OED – Oxford English Dictionary
DNB – Dictionary of National Biography
PMLA – Papers of the Modern Languages Association
Self-assessment quiz follows …
© Roy Johnson 2003
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