Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Stop Driving Me Dotty With Those Full Stops!

I watched 'Big Brother' yesterday—yes, yes, I know!  I didn't plan to become hooked on the wretched show this year but, as the great quizmaster used to say, "I've started, so I'll finish."  Anyway, this little gripe isn't about the programme per se, but about a tiny, niggling incident in it.

In a task, one of the contestants had to pretend to be a psychologist or an agony aunt (or uncle in this case) and a large sign saying "Dr. Callum" appeared on screen.  And this, I'm afraid, is my little gripe.  I hate the use of stops after Mr, Mrs, Dr and such titular abbreviations—so much so that my fingers itched to reach for the Tippex and apply a dollop to the TV screen.

I've grown used to seeing its use by our dear American friends (and have tried in vain to educate them), but I haven't seen this in British English in very many years (until yesterday).

At school—a long, long time ago—my revered primary school teacher taught me that if the abbreviated word ends with the same letter as the whole word, no stop is necessary.  Thus Doctor becomes Dr, Mister becomes Mr and so on and so forth.  To abbreviate a word like Professor to Prof., however, a stop is permitted because f is not the final letter of the full word.

I only became aware that the stop (or should I say period for our friends over the pond) is used in this way in American English when I found my first American publisher and little dots appeared all over my very first manuscript.

"No, no, no," I said.  "This is quite wrong."

"It's our house style," she explained.

"It's my pet hate—it looks so old-fashioned and wrong.  Please don't do it to me."

"We'll compromise, just this once," she said.  Lovely lady.

When a different publisher—this time Canadian—signed up my next novel, the same thing happened and I took up the cudgel again.  Once more, they let me have my way.  It's a tiny victory, but then I suppose it's a tiny matter.

Does it matter to you?  Do you place full stops after abbreviations?  And does anyone know if 'Big Brother' has an American working on its production team this year?


Andi-Roo TheWorldForRealz said...

Zowie! I had no idea that a period was not to be used following an abbreviation in British English! The things I learn from other blogs -- I'll never stop being astounded! But then, if you guys get annoyed that we added a "stop" to our abbreviations, I'd say we're equally annoyed that you have yet to remove that extra and unnecessary "u" from certain words like "color" or "favor". Although I must admit I don't find it annoying, personally; it strikes me as quaint and I tend to read entire sentences with a British accent if I am aware the author's background calls for such. What I find most interesting is how closely linked our versions of English still are! Different, yes. But still very, very similar -- enough so that we can still easily converse. I guess I'm a weirdo, but the idea that we live in different countries, on separate continents, and yet speak the same basic language, is simply amazing! :)

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Just saw your post and I have to agree with you, Lynette. But the lovely publisher I'm now with allows me to use all British spelling etc - except for the 's' in towards and that period after the Mr and Mrs. I would avoid it but it's a historical novel that uses a lot of these!

ManicScribbler said...

Hi Andi-Roo
Thanks for stopping by.
I don't want to start an international incident but I think using full stops in those abbreviations mentioned is an archaism we simply got rid of. We moved with the times, just as you did with simplifying spellings and making them more phonetic - dropping the u, replacing s with z etc. Maybe that's material for another blog.
I'm all for progress.
One thing I don't understand is why Americans dropped the i from aluminium, but not, for example, from titanium. ;)

ManicScribbler said...

Thank you for visiting and commenting, Rosemary.
Your publisher sounds great, too. I think I could just about live with stops after abbreviations in historical fiction - my early editions of Jane Austen still refer to Mr. and Mrs., so it probably adds a flair of authenticity.
I know the s in towards, forwards, backwards etc are all considered no-nos, but don't really understand why.
Ah well...

Mary L. Ball said...

Hum... All in know is that's the way I was taught to write the abbreviation. Try to tell a teacher you're not going to add that little dot! LOL

Wendy's Writing said...

I can't believe that I taught English for all those year and never knew the reason why these abbreviations didn't have dots... now it's all become clear!

ManicScribbler said...

Hi Mary,
Oh I remember the days when the teacher's word was gospel. How times change... :)

Hi Wendy,
Nice to see you here. Thanks for making me smile.

Corinne O'Flynn said...

How interesting! I have always been taught the full stop. The nuns had it wrong? I'm still trying to convert to the lack of a double space after period. Quite a difficult habit for those of us who learned on a typewriter! ;) I'll have to keep an eye out for the Mr and Mr. Great post!

ManicScribbler said...

Hi Corinne,
What's this about the lack of a double space after a full stop? Oh no! Like you, I learned to type on an actual typewriter and my fingers are far too set in their ways to change now ;)
Thanks for stopping by.

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