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She took a step away from me. Then a second. And a third.

Are periods acceptable here?

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    Sure they are. It's not formal or academic writing; the author has license, and options. – anongoodnurse Feb 9 '14 at 1:46
  • Commas are standard here. I often, however, see periods used instead, but only in literature--never in formal or academic writing. When I personally come across it, it strikes me as odd, but I understand the reason for doing it. – Anonym Feb 9 '14 at 2:44
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"She took a step away from me, then a second and a third." is correct for the most formal writing. An Oxford comma may be optionally inserted: "She took a step away from me, then a second, and a third."

To learn about the Oxford comma, read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_comma

The using periods sounds informal, as one might find in a novel or personal writing. It would not be acceptable in formal communication. In the informal setting, it makes the series more distinctly separated, in effect "slowing" the progression through each "step," which could be the author's dramatic intent.

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    The is correct here is a little bit too strong. Maybe is correct for academic writing? There's nothing at all wrong in a novel or many other contexts with what the asker does. – virmaior Feb 9 '14 at 10:00
  • @virmaior, in response to your comment, I have clarified some. However I did state from the beginning that in a novel or personal writing it would appear, and explained why an author would use it. I have now expanded my explanation of what dramatic ends the author could achieve by using periods. – M. K. Hunter Feb 10 '14 at 2:38

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