First, let’s go back to 2014 or thereabouts, when I first bought my copy of the New Oxford Style Manual. I’d taken on a couple of English clients, and I wanted to be sure I didn’t make any stupid mistakes in “correcting” their writing. I knew about the tendency to use single quotation marks (which they call “inverted commas,” for both single and double marks) where we use double and vice versa, but what didn’t I know?
As I skimmed the section on punctuation, I realized that almost everything was either the same as it was for American English, or I already knew about the difference. And then it happened.
Chapter 4, section 6: “Full point.”
What’s that? I’ve never heard of that. Oh, I see: “also called full stop, or in American English, period.” (emphasis theirs)
Now, I’d heard of a full stop. However, this is the English publishers’ equivalent to the Chicago Manual of Style, so I figured it must be correct. Right? Surely I was a woefully misinformed Yank. So, I set out to ask my English clients about this term.
They’d never heard of it.
Neither had their children. Not one teacher called it a “full point.” Full stop.
I set my concerns aside, and decided to call it what everyone calls it.
Now, let’s move forward in time to last week. I was reading Lynne Murphy’s delightful book on British and American English, The Prodigal Tongue, when I happened upon this bit: “By the 20th century, Americans generally used period and didn’t bother much with full stop, while Britons retained full stop and eventually lost period. (Full point is still occasionally found in printers’ jargon.)”
And then, I took my purple gel pen in hand and annotated the margin: “And the New Oxford Style Manual!” (Of course, I underlined the title as I was taught in grade school.)
[For those who are wondering, that text combines New Hart’s Rules with the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors in one volume.]
Just today, I tweeted that I was going to write a blog post about “this full point silliness” and I tagged Lynne, because it seemed the proper thing to do. After all, if not for her book, my memory wouldn’t have been jogged. She replied, asking “Who’s silly about full point?” So I told her.
I got a like. I’ll take it!