14

I encountered this claim from a user on cooking who seems to consistently remove periods at the ends of paragraphs:

Never use them. They have no place on electronic media, they are a legacy device?

And later:

End of paragraph periods were for bad typing/handwriting spacing. Computers format very cleanly, so no purpose, and they look weird on sentences that end in URL's or emoticons etc

Is there any broad or authoritative or "real" support for that idea?

  • 3
    Very strange place. The person who doesn't like periods at the end of paragraphs thinks there's something called "Particle Theory" that explains why warm water is better for washing dishes than cold water. Another poster in that thread thinks that soap kills bacteria. The first person evidently thinks that periods at the end of paragraphs are a superfluous typesetting artifact like placing two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence. The rest of the world understands that periods by useful convention end written sentences. Readers will wonder whether something has been omitted. – deadrat Dec 4 '15 at 5:15
  • 3
    @deadrat Whether or not this is grammatically correct has nothing to do with whether that answer is right about how the world works, and it definitely has nothing to do with what a completely different person wrote in a completely different answer to the same question. If you think the claim about terminal punctuation is wrong, by all means write an answer. If you just want to criticize other things that user said, go do it to his face. (Helpful tip though: "particle theory" appears to be a UK term for "matter is made of particles that move around", and that person is from NZ.) – Cascabel Dec 4 '15 at 5:29
  • 3
    The first quote has 3 basic mistakes: a comma splice, a plural verb with a singular device, and a declarative statement that ends with a question mark. I recall learning about these in 7th grade. So the person quoted lacks credibility. And, indeed, omitting a period would be a mistake. – donjuedo Dec 4 '15 at 13:26
  • 3
    @deadrat - Another poster in that thread thinks that soap kills bacteria - uh, of course they do. Soap breaks down fats, including bacterial cell lipid walls, thus killing bacteria. That's a primary function of a soap. – Davor Dec 4 '15 at 15:18
  • 4
    @deadrat I definitely get what you're saying there, and I'm a big defender of people's right to personal style. But there's a line somewhere - we want the posts on our sites to be easily readable and satisfy readers' basic expectations, so you can't use absolutely any style you want. There's a difference between "reasonable people/guides disagree" and "no one else does this". – Cascabel Dec 4 '15 at 18:39
16

I don't think any authority supports it.

The idea has been discussed before; here's a Language Log post that talks about the issue: Aggressive periods and the popularity of linguistics. It links to this New Republic article: The Period Is Pissed, by Ben Crair, from which I took the following extracts:

In my text messages and online chats [...] people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce “I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.”

Near the end:

And these newfangled, emotional uses of terminal punctuation haven't crossed over into more traditional, thoughtful writing.

I think Stack Exchange posts are more like online newspaper articles or blog posts, and not so much like text or chat messages.

(Another Language Log article with some comments and links: Anticipatory confirmation)

(The practice of omitting a period specifically in paragraph-final position has also been discussed on the WordReference forums.)

  • Thanks! I hadn't actually thought to compare this to text and IM since nothing else here (in that post or otherwise) is at all like a text. That does make it make a bit more sense at least, but as you say that's not really the right model for a Stack Exchange post! – Cascabel Dec 4 '15 at 5:14
  • If you want to get super technical, your first quoted paragraph there ends with a quotation mark instead of a period. – Bradley Uffner Dec 4 '15 at 20:06
  • @BradleyUffner If you're talking about in the question, that's not a paragraph from the answer with the missing periods, it's just a comment from the author trying to explain why they're missing. – Cascabel Dec 5 '15 at 4:22
8

I don't think it is ever correct to omit a period (or full stop) at the end of a normal English sentence or indeed a paragraph. But that is not to say that I don't see it "in the wild", and indeed, am guilty of omitting correct punctuation in a few cases where the sense is clear even without it. I would omit a period at the end of a "sentence" that uses non-English words such as a fragment of code or a mathematical formula where any extraneous characters could lead to confusion or syntax problems. Example:

To fix the problem, use the switch /persistent:yes

Another example, in a presentation (ie projected on screen, PowerPoint, prezi, Keynote or whatever), I might use a series of bullet points without a closing period on any of them, not even the last. (I know! Heresy! Burn me as a witch!) The next bullet usually makes the sense clear enough. The fragmented nature of the bullets often means they don't properly parse as a sentence anyway. In a formal text such as software documentation or training manual I would more usually ensure grammatical completeness.

To demonstrate as a meta-example, there are four reasons for this:

  • it is just as comprehensible
  • the next bullet arguably serves the same purpose as a separator
  • I find it easier to be consistent in omitting them than including them
  • everyone else seems to get away with it
  • In these cases (code etc), I would A) put a space before the period, and/or B) ensure that the code is in a distinct text format (bold, underline, code) that the period doesn't share. What if you don't have a "next bullet" and have to do this in the middle of a paragraph? – Random832 Dec 4 '15 at 14:09
  • @Random832 - I, like AdamV, tend to omit fullstops in bulleted lists. If there's no next bullet, and it's in the middle of a paragraph, I'll start the next line with a capital letter if it's a new sentence, or just continue on with a lower case letter if the list is in the middle of a sentence. – AndyT Dec 4 '15 at 15:02
  • Text in PP presentations often isn't even complete sentences, so normal punctuation rules may not even apply. – Barmar Dec 8 '15 at 0:46
6

The period signifies the end of a thought. The lack of a period at the end of a paragraph would tell me the thought, as a unit, is not complete.

The only acceptable omission of puncuation I've ever seen is the final quotation mark if the next paragraph is a continuation of the character's dialog.

0

No «authority» would declare today that it is correct to omit the period of the last sentence of a paragraph.

However it seems that there is some usage of this phenomenon. The comic Oglaf (NSFW) omits the period of the last sentence in a speech bubble.

enter image description here

Another one is texting.

Perhaps rules of usage are slowly changing. What is simply not allowed now will be bad style only, and what is bad style now will be accepted style later. After all, rules follow usage, too. If enough people do something it will become the rule.

  • The example shown omits all full stops, it only has commas and other sentence-end marks (question, exclamation). – AdamV Dec 4 '18 at 12:42
-2

Periods get lost in text (are hard to read on-screen at small fonts) -- so I have begun using two dashes to separate thoughts regardless whether it is correct punctuation or not -- clarity trumps correctness every time in my book.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.