25 September 2017Last updated

Features | People

Suresh Menon: the period comes to a full stop

A dot on the landscape of the written word, the full stop is set to disappear – what are our columnist’s thoughts?

Suresh Menon
23 Aug 2016 | 03:14 pm

The full stop, or period, for those of a slightly earlier vintage, is in danger of dropping out of English punctuation – should we rejoice that an insignificant (well, almost) member of the family, a mere dot on the landscape of the written word, is set to disappear, or take that as yet another striking example of the deterioration of good manners?

Part of the reason is messages on social media have made the full stop redundant; it is too much of a bother, it stops the reader dead in his tracks and it means that the next sentence has to begin with a capital letter – and that calls for more work from fingers especially on gadgets that aren’t as smart as the user, thus causing time to be wasted, time that can be better used sending more such messages…

The full stop can express a whole range of emotions, from stoic acceptance (‘Ah well, I can’t do anything about it now’) to ringing sarcasm, as when responding to a friend who already owes you money but wants to borrow some more – when he asks, is it OK if I ask you for more money, and promises to pay everything within the next six months, the response ‘Fine’ indicates different things with different punctuation marks, as for example, if you had an exclamation mark, it would mean ‘yes of course, you jolly lad, old friend and what have you, I have no issue with that’, but with a full stop it means: ‘OK, this one time, which I hope will be the last, but how long do you think we can keep up this charade?’

James Joyce, of course, has already taught us about the value of the dropped full stop in the chapter in Ulysses where the stream of consciousness writing makes everything rushed and mirrors the way we think which is without punctuation of any sort which you could rewrite with all the proper punctuation in only if you want to destroy the poetry and the vividness of the experience all I can tell those who haven’t read that portion which ends with the word Yes repeated many times is to go ahead and do so now to get a clearer picture of how literature can often be ahead of Twitter and Facebook which make use of the same technique without understanding what it means or perhaps they understand but don’t acknowledge?

Are the other punctuation marks in danger will we say goodbye to the semicolon and its big brother the colon, the comma, the dash and hyphen, the ellipsis, the apostrophe, the bracket

Tell us what you think

Suresh Menon

Suresh Menon

is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is.