Full stops – how to use them

free pages from our English Language software program

Full stops – definition

full stops Full stops are punctuation marks indicating a strong pause.

redbtn 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).


redbtn The full stop is the strongest mark of punctuation. It is sometimes called the ‘period’.

redbtn The stop is also used following many abbreviations.

redbtn NB! A full stop is not necessary if the sentence ends with a question or an exclamation mark. Got that?

redbtn Full stops are commonly placed after abbreviations:

ibid. – No. 1 – ff. – e.g. – etc.

redbtn The stop is normally placed inside quotation marks but outside brackets:

“What joy we had that particular day.”

Profits declined (despite increased sales).

redbtn However, if the quotation is part of another statement, the full stop goes outside the quote marks:

Mrs Higginbottam whispered “They’re coming”.

redbtn 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.)

redbtn 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.’

redbtn Full stops are not required after titles, headings, or sub-headings:

The Turn of the Screw
Industrial Policy Report

redbtn 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]

redbtn 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

redbtn 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

English language links

Red button English Language – free guidance notes

Red button English Language 3.0

Red button Improve your Writing Skills

  • English Language 3.0 (.html)English Language 3.0

    English Language 3.0 tells you everything you need to know about English — language rules, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Improve your written style. Get rid of mistakes. Quiz questions and exercises help you to check your understanding. Learn how language works. Suitable for all levels – from beginners to advanced. Latest version allows you to […]

    Order English Language 3.0 English Language 3.0 @ £4.95

Buy from Amazon US     Buy from Amazon UK

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

If you found this article interesting you might want to Tell-A-Friend.

Tell A Friend
  1. (required)
  2. (valid email required)
  3. (required)
  4. (valid email required)

cforms contact form by delicious:days

11 Responses to “Full stops – how to use them”

  1. Abhishek says:

    Thanks for letting me know. I was in a big confusion whether to use fullstop before or after the brackets (and know I know).

  2. GR Oliver says:

    I’ve noticed the use of ‘Full-Stop’ (period) in the use of UK-English. I am an American, and we use the period at the end of the abbreviations of titles: Mr. Mrs. Dr., Ph.D, etc. I don’t know how they are used with other English languages: Indian, Canadian, Australian, etc. I imagine they have their own rules. I suppose, in the future, US-English will follow the UK-English,since English is the mother language, and of course for simplicity. I’ve also noticed American literature, when published in the UK, has been modified to UK-English.

  3. Roy Johnson says:

    A period (full stop) to denote an abbreviation – as in Mr., Dr. and eg. – used to be the convention in UK-English, but it is gradually disappearing. On the ‘translation’ of books between UK and US English, I’m fairly sure the modification works the other way round too. ‘Lift’ will become ‘elevator’ and ‘pavement’ will become ‘sidewalk’.

  4. Elizabeth Weall says:

    N/A is an abbreviation but if written in length, ie Not Applicable – does this have a full stop or not when used as a short sentence?

  5. Roy Johnson says:

    This most commonly occurs when filling in forms. No full stop is necessary – because it doesn’t really constitute a complete ‘sentence’.

  6. Sandra says:

    What about following a capital standing for a middle name? Should it be “John B Smith”, or “John B. Smith”?

  7. mia jones says:

    I am 13 and I want to find 5 rules on full stops

  8. Roy Johnson says:

    The standard convention is to use a full stop after the capital letter – John B. Smith – as in E.M. Forster and D.H. Lawrence

  9. Roy Johnson says:

    All the rules you need are here at the Wikipedia entry – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_stop

  10. J P M says:

    Period as a full stop? Obviously Some American’s do not know that period does not mean stop, its a length of time.

  11. Roy Johnson says:

    ‘Period’ is the typographic name given to what most people call a ‘full stop’. The terms are interchangeable. This site is British – not American. Good day!

Leave a Reply


Powered by eShop v.6