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Full stop

Full stop

In punctuation, the full stop (in British English) or period (in American English) is the punctuation mark placed at the end of a sentence. The full stop glyph is sometimes called a baseline dot because, typographically, it is a dot on the baseline (typography). This term distinguishes the baseline dot from the interpunct (a raised dot).[1][2][3]

The full stop glyph is also used for other purposes. It is often used at the end of an initial letter used to stand for a name, and is sometimes used at the end of individual letters in an initialism (for example, "U.S.A."; see Acronym#Punctuation). It also has multiple contexts in mathematics and computing, where it may be called dot or point (short for decimal point).[1]


The full stop symbol derives from the system of Greek punctuation introduced by Aristophanes of Byzantium in the 3rd century BC. In his system, there were a series of dots whose placement determined their meaning. The full stop at the end of a completed thought or expression was marked by the high dot ⟨˙⟩, called the stigmḕ teleía (στιγμὴ τελεία) or "terminal dot". The "middle dot" ⟨·⟩, the stigmḕ mésē (στιγμὴ μέϲη), marked a division in a thought occasioning a longer breath (essentially a semicolon) and the low dot ⟨.⟩, called the hypostigmḕ (ὑποστιγμή) or "underdot", marked a division in a thought occasioning a shorter breath (essentially a comma).[4] In practice, scribes mostly employed the full stop and the others fell out of use and were later replaced by other symbols. From the 9th century, the full stop began appearing as a low mark instead of a high one; by the advent of printing in Western Europe, the low mark was regular and then universal.[4]

The name "period" is first attested (as the Latin loanword peridos) in Ælfric of Eynsham's Old English treatment on grammar. There, it is distinguished from the full stop (the distinctio) and continues the Greek "underdot"'s earlier function as a comma between phrases.[5] It shifted its meaning to a dot marking a full stop in the works of the 16th-century grammarians.[5] In 19th-century texts, both British English and American English were consistent in their usage of the terms "period" and "full stop".[6][7] The word "period" was used as a name for what printers often called the "full point" or the punctuation mark that was a dot on the baseline and used in several situations. The phrase "full stop" was only used to refer to the punctuation mark when it was used to terminate a sentence.[7] At some point during the 20th century, British usage diverged, adopting "full stop" as the more generic term, while American English continued to retain the traditional usage.


Full stops are one of the most commonly used punctuation marks; analysis of texts indicate that approximately half of all punctuation marks used are full stops.[8][9]

Ending sentences

Full stops are used to indicate the end of sentences which are not questions or exclamations.

Periods after initials

It is usual to use full stops after initials; [11]


A full stop is used after some abbreviations.[12] If the abbreviation ends a declaratory sentence there is no additional period immediately following the full stop that ends the abbreviation (e.g., My name is Gabriel Gama, Jr.). This is called haplography. Though two full stops (one for the abbreviation, one for the sentence ending) might be expected, conventionally only one is written. In the case of an interrogative or exclamatory sentence ending with an abbreviation, a question or exclamation mark can still be added (e.g., Are you Gabriel Gama, Jr.?).

Abbreviations and personal titles of address

According to the Oxford A–Z of Grammar and Punctuation, "If the abbreviation includes both the first and last letter of the abbreviated word, as in 'Mister' ["Mr"] and 'Doctor' ["Dr"], a full stop is not used."[13] This does not include, for example, the standard abbreviations for titles such as Professor ("Prof.") or Reverend ("Rev."), because they do not end with the last letter of the word they are abbreviating.

Among American dialects, however, the common convention is to include the period after these abbreviations.

Acronyms and initialisms

In acronyms and initialisms, full stops are somewhat more often placed after each initial in American English (for example, U.S. and U.S.S.R.) than in British English (US and USSR), but this depends much upon the house style of a particular writer or publisher.[14] The American Chicago Manual of Style now deprecates the use of full stops in acronyms.[15]


The period glyph is used in the presentation of numbers, but in only one of two alternate styles at a time.

In the more prevalent usage in English-speaking countries it represents a decimal separator, visually dividing whole numbers from fractional (decimal) parts. The comma is then used to separate the whole-number parts into groups of three digits each, when numbers are sufficiently large.

  • 1.007 (one and seven thousandths)
  • 1,002.007 (one thousand two and seven thousandths)
  • 1,002,003.007 (one million two thousand three and seven thousandths)

The more prevalent usage in much of Europe, Southern Africa, and Latin America (with the exception of Mexico due to the influence of the United States), reverses the roles of the comma and full stop glyph, but sometimes substitutes a space for a full stop.

  • 1,007 (one and seven thousandths)
  • 1.002,007 or 1 002,007 (one thousand two and seven thousandths)
  • 1.002.003,007 or 1 002 003,007 (one million two thousand three and seven thousandths)

In countries that use the comma as a decimal separator, the full stop is sometimes found as a multiplication sign; for example, 5,2 . 2 = 10,4; this usage is impractical in cases where the full stop is used as a decimal separator, hence the use of the interpunct: 5.2 · 2 = 10.4. This notation is also seen when multiplying units in science; for example, 50 km/h could be written as 50 km·h−1.


In computing, the full stop is often used as a delimiter (commonly called a "dot"), such as in DNS lookups, web addresses, and file names:

It is used in many programming languages as an important part of the syntax. C uses it as a means of accessing a member of a struct, and this syntax was inherited by C++ as a means of accessing a member of a Class (computer science) or object. Java and Python also follow this convention. Pascal uses it both as a means of accessing a member of a record set (the equivalent of struct in C), a member of an object, and after the end construct which defines the body of the program. In Erlang, Prolog, and Smalltalk, it marks the end of a statement ("sentence"). In a regular expression, it represents a match of any character. In Perl and PHP, the full stop is the string concatenation operator. In the Haskell standard library, the full stop is the function composition operator.

In file systems, the full stop is commonly used to separate the extension of a file name from the name of the file. RISC OS uses full stops to separate levels of the hierarchical file system when writing path names—similar to / in Unix-based systems and \ in MS-DOS-based systems.

In Unix-like operating systems, some applications treat files or directories that start with a full stop as hidden. This means that they are not displayed or listed to the user by default.

In Unix-like systems and Microsoft Windows, the dot character represents the working directory of the file system. Two dots (..) represent the parent directory of the working directory.

Bourne shell-derived command-line interpreters, such as sh, ksh, and Bash, use the dot as a command to read a file and execute its content in the running interpreter. (Some of these also offer source as a synonym, based on that usage in the C-shell.)


The term STOP was used in telegrams in place of the full stop. The end of a sentence would be marked by STOP, because punctuation cost extra.[16]

Punctuation styles when quoting

The traditional convention in American English and in Canada is "aesthetic" punctuation, or "typesetters' quotation", where full stops and commas are included inside quotation marks even if they are not part of the quoted sentence. The style used in the UK, and to a lesser extent in the U.S., is "logical punctuation", which stays true to the punctuation used by the original source, placing commas and full stops inside or outside quotation marks depending on where they were placed in the material that is being quoted. Scientific and technical publications, including in the U.S., almost universally use it for that reason.[17]

The aesthetic or typesetter's rule was standard in early 19th-century Britain; its application was advocated, for example, in the influential book The King's English by Fowler and Fowler.

  • "Carefree" means "free from care or anxiety." (aesthetic or typesetters' style)
  • "Carefree" means "free from care or anxiety". (logical style used here because the full stop was not part of the original quotation)

Before the advent of mechanical type, the order of quotation marks with full stops and commas was not given much consideration. The printing press required that the easily damaged smallest pieces of type for the comma and full stop be protected behind the more robust quotation marks.[18] Typesetters' style still adheres to this older tradition in formal writing. It is taught to American schoolchildren when they learn how to draft prose, and is strictly observed in most books, newspapers, magazines, and journals.

References: The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition; Hart's Rules for Compositors and Readers at the University Press, Oxford.

Spacing after a full stop

There have been a number of practices relating to the spacing after a full stop. Some examples are listed below:

  • One word space (French Spacing). This is the current convention in most countries that use the ISO basic Latin alphabet for published and final written work, as well as digital media.[19][20]
  • Two word spaces (English Spacing). It is sometimes claimed that the two-space convention stems from the use of the monospaced font on typewriters, but in fact that convention replicates much earlier typography — the intent was to provide a clear break between sentences.[21] This spacing method was gradually replaced by the single space convention in published print, where space is at a premium, and continues in much digital media.[20][22]
  • One widened space (such as an em space). This spacing was seen in historical typesetting practices (until the early twentieth century).[23] It has also been used in other typesetting systems such as the Linotype machine[24] and the TeX system.[25] Modern computer-based digital fonts can adjust the spacing after terminal punctuation as well, creating space slightly wider than a standard word space.[26]

Full stops in other scripts

Although the present Greek full stop (τελεία, teleía) is romanized as a Latin full stop[27] and encoded identically with the full stop in Unicode,[4] the historic full stop in Greek was a high dot and the low dot functioned as a kind of comma, as noted above. The low dot was increasingly but irregularly used to mark full stops after the 9th century and was fully adapted after the advent of print.[4] The teleia should also be distinguished from the ano teleia mark, which is named "high stop" but looks like an interpunct (a middle dot) and principally functions as the Greek semicolon.

In some Asian languages, notably Chinese and Japanese, a small circle is used instead of a solid dot: "。" (U+3002 "Ideographic Full Stop"). Notably, in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao usage, the full stop is written at center height instead of on the line.

In the Devanagari script, used to write Hindi and Sanskrit among other Indian languages, a vertical line ("।") (U+0964 "Devanagari Danda") is used to mark the end of a sentence. In Hindi, it is known as poorna viraam (full stop) in Hindi and 'Daa`ri' in Bengalee. Some Indian languages also use the full stop, such as Marathi. In Tamil it is known as "Mutrupulli", which means End Dot.[28]

In Sinhala, it is known as kundaliya: "෴" ((U+0DF4) symbol "full stop"). Periods were later introduced into Sinhala script after the introduction of paper due to the influence of Western languages. See also Sinhala numerals.

Urdu uses the "۔" (U+06D4) symbol.

In Thai, no symbol corresponding to the full stop is used as terminal punctuation. A sentence is written without spaces, and a space is typically used to mark the end of a clause or sentence.

In the Ge'ez script used to write Amharic and several other Ethiopian and Eritrean languages, the equivalent of the full stop following a sentence is the ˈarat nettib "።" which means "four dots". The two dots on the right are slightly ascending from the two on the left, with space in between them.


The character is encoded at U+002E . full stop (HTML: .).

There is also U+2E3C stenographic full stop (HTML: ).

See also


  1. ^ a b Williamson, Amelia A. (March–April 2008). "Period or Comma? Decimal Styles over Time and Place". Science Editor 31 (2): 42–43. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  2. ^ Whistler, Ken (May 30, 2003). "Character Stories: U+2024 ONE DOT LEADER". Computers and Writing Systems.  
  3. ^ Truss, Lynn (2004). Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham Books. p. 25.  
  4. ^ a b c d Nicolas, Nick. "Greek Unicode Issues: Punctuation". 2005. Accessed 7 Oct 2014.
  5. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed. "period, n., adj., and adv." Oxford University Press (Oxford), 2005.
  6. ^ "The Workshop: printing for amateurs". The Bazaar, Exchange and Mart, And Journal of the Household vol. 13. 6 November 1875. p. 333. Retrieved December 24, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "The Punctuation Points". Amiecan Printer and Lithographer v. 24 no.6. August 1897. p. 278. Retrieved December 24, 2013. 
  8. ^ A Comparison of the Frequency of Number/Punctuation and Number/Letter Combinations in Literary and Technical Materials
  9. ^ Charles F. Meyer (1987). A Linguistic Study of American Punctuation. Peter Lang Publishing, Incorporated.  , referenced in Frequencies for English Punctuation Marks
  10. ^ Cindy Barden Grammar, Grades 4-5 2007 p9 "Use a period after a person's initials. Examples: A. A. Milne L.B.Peep W157 Use Periods With Initials Name. Initials are abbreviations for parts of a person's name. Date: Add periods at the ends of sentences, after abbreviations, and after initials".
  11. ^ The Brief Thomson Handbook David Blakesley, Jeffrey Laurence Hoogeveen - 2007 -p477 "Use periods with initials: George W. Bush Carolyn B. Maloney
  12. ^ New Hart's Rules: The handbook of style for writers and editors. Oxford University Press, 2005.  
  13. ^ Oxford A–Z of Grammar and Punctuation by John Seely.
  14. ^ Initialisms Oxford Dictionaries Online.
  15. ^ The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed.
  16. ^ Julian Borger in Washington (2006-02-03). "Julian Borger in ''The Guardian,'' February 3, 2006". Guardian. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  17. ^ "Help with Quotation Marks". University of Maryland University College. 
  18. ^ """AUE: FAQ excerpt: ", vs ,. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  19. ^ Einsohn, Amy (2006). The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications (2nd ed.). Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. p. 113.  
  20. ^ a b Manjoo, Farhad (January 13, 2011). "Space Invaders". Slate. 
  21. ^ Heraclitus (1 November 2011). "Why two spaces after a period isn't wrong". 
  22. ^ Felici, James (2003). The Complete Manual of Typography: A Guide to Setting Perfect Type. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press. p. 80.  
  23. ^ See for example, University of Chicago Press (1911). Manual of Style: A Compilation of Typographical Rules Governing the Publications of The University of Chicago, with Specimens of Types Used at the University Press (Third ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago. p. 101.  
  24. ^ Mergenthaler Linotype Company (1940). Linotype Keyboard Operation: Methods of Study and Procedures for Setting Various Kinds of Composition on the Linotype. Mergenthaler Linotype Company.  
  25. ^ Eijkhout, Victor (2008). "TeX by Topic, A TeXnician's Reference" (PDF). Lulu. pp. 185–188. 
  26. ^ Felici, James (2003). The Complete Manual of Typography: A Guide to Setting Perfect Type. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press. p. 80.  
  27. ^ Ελληνικός Οργανισμός Τυποποίησης [Ellīnikós Organismós Typopoíīsīs, "ΕΛΟΤ 743, 2η Έκδοση [ELOT 743, 2ī Ekdosī, "ELOT 743, 2nd ed."]. ELOT (Athens), 2001. (Greek).
  28. ^ முற்றுப்புள்ளி (தமிழ் நடை)

External links

  • Chicago Style Q&A on one space versus two after sentences
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