Full stops are used to mark the end of sentences. Sometimes, they are used to indicate abbreviations and acronyms, or as a decimal point to separate numbers. Read about the different uses of the full stop by clicking on the tabs below.
Use a full stop (also called a period) to end sentences. Use full stops frequently. They provide structure and clarity to a text, and can help with readability.
- I go shopping every day.
- I looked outside. It was raining again.
Use a full stop rather than a question mark to end indirect questions. (We only use a question mark if the indirect question is part of an actual question.)
- I wonder what Mark is doing now.
- I asked her what time she was arriving.
- Can you tell me where the train station is?
Full Stops with Abbreviations
The use of full stops after abbreviations differs between British and American English. In British English, full stops are not used after abbreviations, whereas in American English they usually are.
|British English||American English|
Full stops aren’t generally used when the abbreviation is written in capital letters or when it is an acronym.
- BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation)
- ATM (Automated Teller Machine)
- NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
However, in American English full stops are often placed after letters to indicate abbreviations.
- U.S.A. (The United States of America)
- J.R. Dixon (John Russell Dixon)
If you are unsure, most common or well known abbreviations and acronyms can be found in a dictionary. Remember that consistency is important. Choose one style, and stick to it.
Use a decimal point to separate dollars from cents, and whole numbers from decimals.
- 99.9% fat free
- The average Irish family has 1.38 children.
To learn more about punctuation and numbers see comma in the writing school section of the website. To refresh you knowledge of numbers in English see numbers, dates and time in the vocabulary section of the website.
An ellipsis, or dot-dot-dot as it is colloquially known, is a series of three full stops. It has two main functions in English.
Firstly, it is used to indicate that a section of text has been omitted from a quote, usually to make it shorter.
- “My role in society … is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.” — John Lennon.
Secondly, an ellipsis can represent a pause, uncertainty or a trailing off of thoughts.
- But maybe we could … Or perhaps if we … Oh never mind, it’s too difficult. I guess we’ll never solve this problem …
An ellipsis should be treated like the word or text it replaces; this means we use a space either side and, if it replaces the end of a sentence, the following word should start with a capital letter.
Many fonts and computer programs have an ellipsis symbol that can be inserted.