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042:english:grammar An Independent Educational Net Magazine englishtimes.net


PUNCTUATION front      link      help

English uses symbols to add meaning, intonation, and pauses to text, to improve our understanding. We usually call these symbols punctuation marks, or just punctuation. They are not part of the alphabet.

Other symbols, often called signs, are used to mark words, enclose words, represent words, express processes, show states, and indicate units of measurement. They're short forms for things we use in language and specialised subjects such as music and mathematics.


A full stop is the dot at the end of a sentence, and it represents a pause. When reading text aloud, it's not pronounced, unless you're spelling or describing the text to someone else. Just leave a pause. The pause is usually longer after a complete paragraph than after a sentence within a paragraph.

There's no space before the symbol. It's followed by one space if the next thing is a new sentence, and one empty line if the next thing is a new paragraph. The next word begins with a capital letter. In the US and Canada, a full stop is called a period.

Sentences and paragraphs begin with a capital letter. However, modern poetry, adverts, and casual emails, sometimes don't use capitals conventionally, or use them at all.


Headings, sub-headings, and items in a list, rarely use full stops, unless they are complete sentences which include a verb and other punctuation. Here's a typical example of a list:

800MHz 256MB 12GB multimedia PC
19" Samsung 900NF monitor
HP CP 1160 printer
assorted cables, connectors, keyboard, and mouse


Abbreviations used to be followed by a full stop to show that some of the letters were missing. In modern written English, full stops are not used in abbreviations if the meaning is clear, although you still see them occasionally:

S.E. Asia     short for: South East Asia
P.O. Box 18     short for: Post Office Box 18
U.S.A.     short for: United States of America

The use of full stops in this way is explained in the Learning English Support module called Abbreviations and Acronyms. Check out www.learningenglish.net.


When a full stop is used to separate words in a net or email address it's called a dot. So, when you read these, just say dot:

written spoken
www.talking.co.uk dot co dot u k
info@oxfordenglish.net dot net
home.btinternet.com dot com


Exactly the same symbol is used as a decimal point. So, when you read these, just say point:

written spoken
Just over 8.6% of the trains arrived late. 8 point 6
The kitchen is approximately 3.25 metres long. three point two five
We sell wire in sizes down to 0.05 mm diameter. oh point oh five


Although English uses full stop, there is one conversational use of the US period which has become popular. If someone expresses a strong feeling or belief and then doesn't want to talk about it any more, you may hear:

Can we just let it drop? OK? Period!

Copyright and Permission: Learning English, an on-line interactive multimedia experience for intermediate speakers who need to improve and develop their written and spoken English. Check out www.learningenglish.net.

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The English Times
An independent educational internet magazine to help you learn English

Talking Technologies and Originators Copyright 2002