This Just In: Thieves Steal Critical Punctuation
Let’s say there’s a burglar on the loose. You turn on your television just as the newscaster is finishing the news alert:
“It has been reported the burglar is carrying a deadly firearm. Police caution all residents to stay indoors and lock all exterior doors. And now for your weather forecast-”
The bulletin behind the newscaster should have filled you in on the critical details, i.e. the burglar’s relative vicinity to you. However, the “Reports of a burglar in the … neighborhood” is hardly informative and it’s undoubtedly nerve-wracking.
Proper punctuation is critical to create a good user experience, as well as maintain your credibility and your message. This brings us to today’s top punctuation howler: the period, as well as its close relative the ellipsis.
The period is used at the end of a sentence that is: declarative (statements), somewhat imperative (mild commands), or a sentence without a verb that is not a question or an exclamation.
- “What a smart gorilla!” (exclamatory) vs. “The gorilla is smart.” (declarative)
- “Sit!” (imperative) vs. “Have a seat.” (mild imperative)
- “Turn right at the corner to get to the store.” (with verb) vs. “This way to the store.” (without verb)
An informal ellipsis ( … ) is commonly used to indicate trailing-off, hesitation, to be continued, or to convey the passage of time.
In formal writing, the traditional 3 dot ellipsis is often used to indicate words omitted within or at the beginning of a sentence. Use 4 dots (a period followed by 3 dots) when omitting the final words of the quoted sentence or a complete paragraph or more.
Let’s use Rosalynn Smith Carter’s inspiring quote: “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to be.”
- “A great leader takes people where they … ought to be.”
- “… where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to be.”
- “A leader takes people…. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to be.”
And Other Period Tips
- Quotations Marks: “Periods always belong inside quotation marks.”
- Single Spacing: For articles and other forms of online writing, it’s acceptable to use one space between a period and the next sentence. Also, always leave one regular space on both sides of an ellipsis.
- Abbreviations and Acronyms: Abbreviations that stand for a single word are typically followed by a period, e.g. Mr. and Mrs. or Ph.D. It’s becoming more and more acceptable to not use periods for abbreviations like measurements (lb), organizations (NATO), computers/technology (CD), titles (CEO), and many others.
We will have more punctuation howlers coming up in the next few weeks, so stop by the Blog for the latest and greatest tips to error-free articles. Use these tips to strengthen your writing skills, as well as maintain your credibility as an Expert Author.
Did you miss our last edition of Top Punctuation Howlers? Discover how to use an exclamation point here!