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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. This term distinguishes the baseline dot from the interpunct (a raised dot).
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).
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). 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.
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. It shifted its meaning to a dot marking a full stop in the works of the 16th-century grammarians. In 19th-century texts, both British English and American English were consistent in their usage of the terms "period" and "full stop". 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. 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 used to indicate the end of sentences which are not questions or exclamations.
A full stop is used after some abbreviations. 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.?).
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." 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.
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. The American Chicago Manual of Style now deprecates the use of full stops in acronyms.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.[unreliable source?] 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.
There have been a number of practices relating to the spacing after a full stop. Some examples are listed below:
Although the present Greek full stop (τελεία, teleía) is romanized as a Latin full stop and encoded identically with the full stop in Unicode, 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. 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.
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:
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