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7.03 The Period, Main purpose

The period marks the end of an affirmative sentence or sentence fragment:

  • The executive assistant was hired on the strength of his curriculum vitae.
  • No interview or examination. Just an analysis of his file.

The period is a "full stop." It stops the reader more fully than the colon, semicolon, comma or dash. Each of these marks of punctuation may, in many circumstances, be used in place of one of the others in order to lessen or intensify a break in the flow of the sentence or passage. In the following examples the period has replaced a weaker mark of punctuation in order to slow the reader down and focus his or her attention:

  • The wheels of government grind exceeding slow. And with good reason.
    I don’t know if you know the mental effect of a bromoseltzer.
    But it’s a hard thing to commit suicide on.
    You can’t.
    You feel so buoyant.
    —Stephen Leacock

In the following examples, the period has itself been replaced by a weaker mark of punctuation in order to bring the elements into a closer relationship:

  • He never drew the wrong conclusions—he never drew any conclusions at all.
  • The parliamentary process is either exciting or efficient; efficient is better.