Period Marks in Writing: How to Use Them With Proper Punctuation

Using a period mark is one of the most fundamental aspects of writing well. Where you place your period, how a period looks, and how it changes your sentence are all important questions to consider. As basic as these things sound, you’d be surprised at just how confusing it can get when you’re in the middle of your writing process. 

In this article, we’ll be breaking down the basics for period usage. Our goal is to help you level up your writing, so let’s jump into it with the most important question of all.

What are periods used for in writing?

Periods serve several purposes in writing, starting with ending a sentence. Another use for periods is to mark an abbreviation, such as “Dr.” instead of “Doctor”. In the world of mathematics, periods define decimal points such as “3.142” for Pi, which might come up during your writing process as well. Finally, ellipses consist of three periods in a row (…), which can indicate ambiguity in a sentence among other uses. We’ll discuss them some more later, for now let’s keep focusing on the fundamentals.

What does the period punctuation symbol look like?

A period, or full-stop as it’s called in British English, looks like a small round dot or pinpoint. Here’s an example: .

Where is the period punctuation mark on the American keyboard?

On a QWERTY keyboard with an American layout, the period is between the keys for the “comma” and the “forward slash”. These keys can also input the “less than” and “question mark” symbols if you press them while holding down the “shift” key. Similarly, the key for the period mark will input a “greater than” symbol (>) if you press it while holding down “shift”.

Where does a period within a sentence go?

Generally speaking, a period should go at the end of a sentence. However, you can also use it for abbreviations, ellipses, and as a decimal point.

Does a period always go at the end of a sentence?

Not all sentences end with a period, only declarative and imperative ones do. These are sentences that contain statements, such as:

“I’m making dinner today.”

And imperative sentences, such as:

“Please get dinner ready.”

Bear in mind that imperative sentences can end in an exclamation point (!) as well. Other types of sentences like exclamatory and interrogative sentences end in exclamation and question marks respectively, and compound sentences end with conjunctions like “and”, “but”, etc.

How to know when to use a period?

If your sentence contains a statement or a request, it should end with a period. The same goes for abbreviations. Periods help you keep things concise, saving you on some space by eliminating the need for extra letters. For example, writing “Mr.” instead of “Mister” is much more efficient, which is why it’s the norm.

When to use 3 periods when writing?

Three periods in a row are known as an “ellipsis”, pronounced ill-LIP-sis, the plural of which is “ellipses”, pronounced ill-LIP-seez. Here’s what they look like: …

There are quite a few uses for ellipses, such as:

  • Indicating omitted words from a quote
  • Trailing off in a sentence of dialogue
  • Creating suspense with a dramatic pause

Do periods go inside or outside of quotation marks?

It depends on the dialect. In American English, you should always place periods inside the quotation marks, even if they’re not part of a quote or speech. In British English, where the term is full-stops, you must place periods outside quotation marks if they’re not part of the original quote.

Are there exceptions to placing periods inside of parentheses?

There are a few situations that call for a period to be placed inside parentheses, such as when they contain a complete sentence.


(This is a complete sentence.)

However, if the parentheses contain a sentence fragment, you should place the period outside.


This is a complete sentence (and this is a fragment).

How do abbreviations affect period placement?

Abbreviations are shortened words that end in a period, like “Doctor” becoming “Dr.” and “Mister” becoming “Mr.” These words generally don’t end a sentence, so they’re followed by another period after the final word.

When should you use a period in bullet points or lists?

Bullet points or lists require periods when they contain complete sentences. Here’s an example of a to-do list:

  • Eat breakfast.
  • Go to the gym.
  • Finish my homework.

Some lists contain sentence fragments or single words. Periods generally aren’t used in these contexts. Here’s an example of a grocery list that doesn’t use periods:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Bread

What is the rule for using periods with acronyms and initials?

Acronyms are abbreviations consisting of the first letter of each word in the name of a country or organization. NASA, USA, and MIT are all examples of acronyms. They’re similar to initials, which consist of the first letters of a person’s name JRR Tolkien and FDR. Periods used to separate each letter of acronyms, but they’ve recently fallen out of use in this context. As for initials, it depends on the style guide you’re referring to.

Rules for using periods when writing in Chicago style

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, you should use periods to end sentences and always place them inside quotation marks. They also come in handy for abbreviations, and in bullet points that contain complete sentences.

Rules for using periods when writing in APA style

According to the American Psychological Association’s style guide, periods can separate the letters in a person’s initials, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, or for country acronyms when they’re used as adjectives, such as U.S. Government. However, you should avoid using them for educational titles like PhD, state name acronyms like NY and CA, and units of measurement like CM.

Rules for using periods when writing in MLA style

According to the Modern Language Association’s style guide, periods belong inside of quotation marks, especially if they’re part of a particular citation. However, if there’s a parenthetical reference following the quote, the period should come after it.

How to use periods in sentences containing ellipses?

If the ellipsis indicates a person trailing off in their dialogue, they serve the function of a period which means you don’t have to use the punctuation mark. However, when using ellipses to create dramatic tension or to indicate some the omission of certain words from a quote, use a period as you normally would to end a sentence.

Should you put a period after a title or heading?

No, a period mark never comes after a title or a heading.

How to check if you properly used a period within a sentence or text?

If you want to make sure you’ve used periods properly throughout your text, try using Grammarlookup. It’s a very user-friendly tool that can help you spot any mistakes you might’ve made along the way, and provide suggestions on how to fix them.

Free Grammar And Punctuation Check!

Grammarlookup uses artificial intelligence to check grammar and punctuation mistakes in your writing, eliminate spelling errors, and highlight 1000s of style issues to make your writing exceptional.

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