Dotting your Ts

highstsignHere is an interesting issue that came up on a project. That is the use of the point or period after shortened words. The use of the term ‘shortened words’ is deliberate here as will be explained.

Most contemporary house style guides would suggest leaving the point off after Mr, Dr and other such words. Indeed most spellcheckers will suggest the same.
Historically this comes from the printed press where space economy used to be an issue and continues because clean copy can be compromised by being littered by too many seemingly random dots on the page. However, in one case some purists disputed this and went as far as to complain about the use and misuse in internal memoranda.

Just for a bit of fun let us explore a traditional view on this.

One of the points of contention seemed to stem from the fact that the office had Americans and British people in it. Most of the older people from the states were strongly in favour of the use of the point, whereas the UK position seems to be in favour of leaving off these humble dots. Interestingly my own (UK-educated) father would agree with the Americans here.

It is often suggested that there is a difference between standard British and US English in this regard and for the most part experience has supported this.
The reason we opened the discussion with the phrase ‘shortened words’ is because of the difference between abbreviations and contractions. An abbreviation would include usage such as Capt., Maj., or any shortened word that does not end the same letter as the one fully spelled out. A contraction is a word that does, and would include: Mr, Mrs (originally mistress), and St (for street). The latter being one of the most misused in British street signs.

My own view is that if it is not needed and can be left out then it should be. However, ultimately we pose the questions is it consistent and is it clear? In professional writing the style-guide is king.

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