The period.

As in the ‘stop’ punctuation.

Well. There may be nothing more difficult in the world than stopping, well, okay, at least knowing when to stop.

Picking THE moment when you place the period down on the paper, in the conversation or just in the moment, which brings it all to a screeching halt.

I shouldn’t be surprised that we struggle with the period. We ignore stop signs when driving or more often crawl through them feigning actual stopping <paying homage to the concept without actually committing to it>.

Ah. And of course there are ellipses … <the three-period method>.

It is actually a stuttering use of the period.  It permits you to leave out smartly used punctuation <and helps you be lazy>. Ellipses can also be used to indicate an unfinished thought or, at the end of a sentence, a trailing off into silence (aposiopesis) or when placed at the beginning or end of a sentence the ellipsis supposedly can also inspire a feeling of melancholy or longing. I personally <too> often use the ellipsis as a slight pause in speech or a thought and I imagine I always use  it as awkward momentary silence. For sure I use it to ‘roll through’ the actually stop sign <the period> so I can lazily wander through what I am thinking.

period just stop hereAnd I often use the period to abruptly end the lazy wandering.

But that period. When used well it increases the value in succinctness:






The trouble with a period? Succinctness leads to space. Empty space waiting to be filled with something.

Yup. That damn period leads to stopping which concurrently means space occurs … most often in front of you. Space that can be filled by someone else or someone else’s words or thoughts or things.

Stopping takes trust.

I imagine the corollary to that thought is that stopping means you need to be able to trust yourself. period the superheroTrust what is done … is … well … done … and stop tinkering and place the period. The period is almost like a ‘trust mark.’ You are entrusting whatever you have created … a thought … a project … a ‘thing of yours’ … with a ‘period.’


“We live at a time when man believes himself fabulously capable of creation, but he does not know what to create.”

José Ortega Y Gasset


We are all capable of creating that perfect thought or thing, if only we knew when to place the period. Because knowing when to stop is often the mark of greatness. Greatness? Knowing when to stop can mean the difference between a masterpiece and an incomprehensible mixture of meaningless pieces & parts.

<in fact … I wrote “when you start sucking, stop” post awhile back>

But. Some people are truly great users of the period.

They use it when they speak. They always seem to know when to stop talking.

They use it when they do something. They always seem to know when to stop working on a particular project.

That said. It is easy to watch when someone makes the mistake of not placing the period and continuing on <when they should have just stopped>. To be fair. I would note most of us are not good at it. What makes it all even trickier is when you are IN the moment, when someone stops & places the period right in the correct place <not too soon – not too late>, to actually notice when someone does it well. In the moment it is difficult to see.

It is so effortless … so casually placed … the period just simply settles into place.

When used well the period eliminates the law of diminishing returns.  It stops the thought and work from sliding down the slippery slope of irrelevance where more effort and input produces less and less value. The period solidifies the clear statement and thought that captures the attention and minds of everyone.

No period? You end up restating the same thing in multiple creative ways only diluting the thought ultimately making it a tasteless slop of words.

Anyway. The period.period big dot

How do you know when to use it?

How do you know when stop?

How do you manage that compelling feeling of continued sharing your impassioned thoughts?

And if you do stop, what do you do with the pent up words and thoughts that inevitably comes along with that restraint?

We simply do our best.

We try to balance what to say and when to stop.

I would suggest that we all tend to use the period too sparingly. Most of us should pull it out of the bag earlier <me included>.

Me? I love periods. I have, at best, a fleeting acquaintance with the other 15 marks of punctuation, but know the period well.

I have come to love the space that occurs after the period.

I love how you can use a period to abruptly create an uncomfortable space.  For example … the sentence … “No.”

I love how you can use a period to ease into a conversation. For example … “and that ends that part of the story.”

I love using periods so much that I write short incomplete sentences, use one word sentences when speaking and often only provide a conclusion when presenting.

In the end.

period end-of-story_designHere is what I know for sure.

If you use a period too early, someone will surely ask a question or ask for more.


If you stop, you can always start again.


End of thought.


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Written by Bruce