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My question is about "Ms". I wonder what the period is for? In 'British English', as opposed to 'American English', if the abbreviation ends in the same letter as the word there is no period. But under no known variant of English, that I know of, is there a period after a word just because it is very short and lacks a vowel unless the word is a contraction/abbreviation.

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    You should consider it to be an abbreviation. – Jim Jun 21 '16 at 22:36
  • You yourself seem to implicitly acknowledge that Mr and Ms are abbreviations, thus justifying the period, at least in AmE. I don't understand what the question is? – DyingIsFun Jun 21 '16 at 22:43
  • It is indeed an abbreviation. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jun 21 '16 at 22:43
  • 'Rules' of punctuation are to a fair degree arbitrary, especially where the punctuation is not being used to indicate syntax; I have found a style guide advocating dropping full stops altogether unless confusion would ensue. This obviates the vexing question of whether or not one should double full stops etc.. / Please include references to support your claims (though style guides differ within the same country). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 21 '16 at 22:43
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As EA wisely points out, punctuation incorporates a degree of arbitrariness, so the answer will depend on the style guide you choose (or the one chosen for you). If it's any comfort, The Chicago Manual of Style places a period after Ms. and includes it as an abbreviation. Your unease may arise from the fact that Ms. is not an abbreviation for any honorific in the way that Mr. is short for mister. But that doesn't bother the editors at CMS, so you shouldn't worry either.

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  • It's not easy to establish/analyse usage changes over time in respect of punctuation marks, but I do know that 40 years ago I routinely included a period after Mr. - but for me personally, things have changed, and I'd be unlikely to do that now (I don't think I ever used it after Ms). I also rather suspect that if you'd been writing a century ago, you might have been likely to refer to the editors at C.M.S. (But let's not worry about that either! :) – FumbleFingers Jun 21 '16 at 23:35
  • @FumbleFingers The editors and I are on a nonperiodic basis. And wha makes you think I wasn't writing a century ago? – deadrat Jun 22 '16 at 0:22

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