Disappearing Dots

Some time ago, I posted a homage to the semicolon, but just recently, I’ve noticed another endangered punctuation species…they’re not really Full Stops or Periods or Ellipses, so I’m going to call them Dots—as used in abbreviations.

I first noticed their disappearance when writing one of my Cornish Detective stories. My protagonist detective’s investigation into a serial killer was interrupted by the secret services of America and the United Kingdom, who took an interest, as some of his victims worldwide had been employed by them. I went to type F.B.I. and M.I.5 and the U.S.A. and the U.K. and it all looked too dotty—interrupting the flow of reading—typing the abbreviations without dots looked wrong too! To check, I accessed the FBI and MI5 websites, and sure enough, they’ve dropped the dots, as have most government sites!

When I was taught punctuation and grammar, back in the 1960s, abbreviations were always dotted. These days, they’re fading away, though m.p.h. for speed, and the common a.m. and p.m. to denote before or after midday correctly hold onto their dots, but mm is acceptable for millimetre, and a simple C and F for Centigrade and Fahrenheit suffices.

I also found that PAYG is now used for Pay As You Go mobile phones. And, BDSM does without dots, but keeps its knots!

Overall, the trend in punctuation is for a cleaner look, partly through laziness, avoiding having to hit an irksome key by pressing Shift. This simplification has affected other punctuation marks. It’s long been common for American speech marks to be a single ‘, while Brits used a double . I was taught that the single mark was specifically for use when quoting what someone had said in the past, while double marks indicated speech for those present in the scene. Nowadays, it’s unusual to see double speech marks.

No one wants to put readers off by a page filled with a blizzard of squiggles, dots, curves and dashes so the simpler way of writing things might be a good move—provided it doesn’t cause confusion over the information being imparted.

Have you noticed any trends in punctuation?

I’ve discovered where the missing dots are going! Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama is famed for her colourful paintings, sculptures and installations featuring thousands of dots!

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