The full stop, preferable to a comma according to the good folks from Coldplay, is also called a period by our US friends.  Period has never really caught on as a term in the British-English speaking world, perhaps due to its association with what the older generation called ‘women’s things.’

On the surface, a full stop is a pretty easy concept.  You use it to finish a clause or a series of clauses and give the reader chance to pause for longer than they might at a comma. When you’re writing for business, though, sometimes it’s tough to know when you really should use a full stop, especially when you have bullet points or indented paragraphs. Super formal documents, like those produced by Her Majesty’s Civil Service, are very formal:

– they have a comma at the end of each bullet,

– until they get to the last bullet,

– and then they finish it with a full stop.

My own preference is not to use anything at the end of bulleted text, even at the end of the last bullet:

– it looks neater

– it’s also easier for me.  Even if it’s a longer bullet with a couple of sentences in, I still don’t put a stop at the end of the bullet

– it allows me to use this convention both for short bullet comments and longer indented paragraphs

Whatever you decide, make sure you consistently apply the convention through your document.

In the normal parts of a document, of course, you should have a full stop at the end of each paragraph. It’s not a luxury you can do without, as a former colleague of mine is fond of arguing. And that former colleague knows who they are :-).

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