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period (full stop)


period (full stop)

William K. Zinsser, On Writing Well, 7th ed. (HarperCollins, 2006)


(1) A punctuation mark ( . ) indicating a full stop, placed at the end of declarative sentences and other statements thought to be complete, and after many abbreviations.

(2) A sentence of several carefully balanced clauses in formal writing. See periodic sentence.

See also:


From the Greek, "circuit, way round"

Examples and Observations:

  • "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."
    (Dorothy Parker)

  • "I'm as pure as the driven slush."
    (Tallulah Bankhead)

  • "I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake--which I also keep handy."
    (W. C. Fields)

  • "We can't be politically correct--right or left--in the war on terrorism. Period."
    (David Hunt)

  • "Robert Frost's triumph was not being at John Kennedy's inauguration ceremony, but the day when he put the last period on 'West-Running Brook.'"
    (Joseph Brodsky)

  • "I think everyone needs to be a role model, period."
    (Barry Bonds)

  • Full Stop
    "Full stop virtually explains itself: a full stop, like a full or perfect point, is obviously not an imperfect point or stop, whether as brief as a comma or as clear-cut as a semicolon or as disruptive as a dash or as smooth as a pair of parentheses or as culturally poised as a colon: here ends the statement, here ends the sentence. . . .

    "Beginners, especially children, overdo the period, inasmuch as they seem to think that no other stop exists. This is what the Fowler brothers call 'the spot-plague.'"
    (Eric Partridge, You Have a Point There: A Guide to Punctuation and Its Allies, rev. ed. Routledge, 1978)

  • Suspended Syntax
    "Generally speaking, one might say that the period expresses a complete thought self-sufficiently; beyond this, it must have at least two members. . . . 'Periodic sentence' is a very rough English equivalent; it describes a long sentence that consists of a number of elements, often balanced or antithetical, and existing in perfectly clear syntactic relationship to one another. The phrase 'suspended syntax' is often used to describe it, since the syntactical pattern, and so the sense, is not completed, is 'suspended,' until the end."
    (Richard Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, University of California Press, 1991)

  • The Lighter Side of Periods
    "A newsroom legend tells of a cub reporter who flooded the city desk with long, flowery stories. His sentences warmed up slowly, curled around a long phrase or two, eventually ambled up to a weak verb, then trailed off in a thicket of subordinate clauses.

    "The cigar-chomping city editor (in those days city editors were always cigar-chomping, desk-thumping, and whiskey swigging) bellowed across the newsroom, summoning the cub. While the kid sat trembling before him, the old curmudgeon rolled a sheet of copy paper into his typewriter and began pounding away with one finger. Eventually he filled the page and handed it to the cub. It was completely covered with black dots.

    "'Here,' he said. 'We call those periods. We have lots of them around the newsroom. Use all you want. Anytime you run out, just come on back and I'll give you some more.'"
    (Jack R. Hart, A Writer's Coach: An Editor's Guide to Words That Work. Random House, 2006)
Pronunciation: PEER-ee-ed
Also Known As: (1) full stop (chiefly British), full point
(2) ambitus, comprehensio, conclusion, continuatio, hirmus, periodic sentence
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