Welcome to the first post series on Fiction Felines! As a lover of punctuation, I decided to write about each of English’s punctuation marks. There was a poll on Twitter about what to start with, and periods came out on top.
So we start with the period!
How do you know when to put one? When is it too emotionless to use one instead of an exclamation point?
Do you even use periods on Twitter?
Honestly, I can only answer the first question.
To give a grammatical breakdown for when to use a period, it’s necessary to know whether you have a subject and a verb.
Example: Jasmine, a small brown tabby with a fear of almost everything.
The subject in this phrase is “Jasmine,” but there isn’t a verb. This is a fragment, and it needs to be fixed before placing that period and calling it a sentence.
Example: Jasmine, a small brown tabby with a fear of almost everything, ran from Steve’s pounce.
“Jasmine” is the subject, and “ran” is the verb, making this a full sentence. Our friendly little dot is now in its proper place.
Periods. (In the most basic form.)
Periods are one of the first grammatical conventions we drop when it comes to shorthand typing, especially when every character counts or when we’re in a rush.
Now, I’m not going to say whether that’s a good or a bad thing. I tend to use periods on the Fiction Feline Twitter account, but I almost never use them on my personal Twitter.
Clearly, I view periods as a formal way of speaking on social media. Period necessity is subjective, and I dance on both sides of the spectrum.
If you want to check out how accurately I can remember my period usage on Twitter, check out @FelinesFiction!
Periods also tell us whether that jumble of letters is a word or the first letter of a series of words. Granted, it doesn’t work like that for everything—NASA is just NASA, even though it’s actually National Aeronautics and Space Administration—but for things like U.S. and a.m. or p.m., they’re pretty necessary.
As I once said at a monthly Odyssey meeting as a reminder to writers: “It’s a.m. and p.m., not ammm and pmmm. That period is necessary.”
If you don’t know where I got the inspiration, check out this video and go to around 1:09. That scene was a fairly iconic moment in my childhood.
If you don’t know about Odyssey, feel free to look them up, but don’t give them clicks by checking out their site. The higher-ups are awful, but I met some great people and learned some good things with my small group.
Periods are also the building blocks to the ellipsis, which are those three little dots used to indicate trailing off—such as when a character’s dialogue is hesitant—or cutting out some words in a direct quote— such as in journalism when cutting out unnecessary parts of an interview.
In academia, the only time to use them is when cutting down a direct quote.
In prose, they can be used even in narration to indicate hesitancy or a sense of suspense. There needs to be a certain kind of narrator in place for that to work, but ellipsis are essentially way more versatile in creative work than they are in academia.
Next week, I’ll talk about my personal favorite: the semicolon.
What do you think about the necessity of the period? Are there ever instances where it’s fine to leave off, or is it always required? Let us know what you think!