Monthly Archives: February 2014

Punctuating sentences that end in periods.

Friends, the Scribe worships his minuscule but devoted following and relishes reader questions. This arrived in last week’s mailbag:

Dear Scribe:

Long time reader, first time writer—please be gentle!! Last week, while watching the Sochi Olympic Games, I started puzzling over a grammar question: do you insert a period when a sentence ends with an expression that takes a period, such as “U.S.” or “Inc.”?

First of all, kudos for taking time to puzzle over a grammar question while watching curling, hockey, and other favorite Olympic sports! Second, thanks for asking this question—which comes up often in writing. The simple answer is that there is no period when an expression that takes a period ends a sentence, e.g.,

  • Beaverton is the home of Nike, Inc. (not, “of Nike, Inc..”)
  • It is a congressional election year in the U.S. (not, “in the U.S..”)

That is all for now …

Leave a comment

Filed under Punctuation

Vary sentence length for more interesting writing!

Friends, varying the length of your sentences makes your writing more interesting and readable. People who study such things recommend an average sentence length of about 20 words. But that doesn’t mean that your aspirational goal should be 20-word sentences. Some should be longer; some shorter.

Sadly, legal writing is plagued by interminable sentences. Long sentences involving complex or technical arguments are difficult to understand. So keep them short. As Gustave Flaubert said: “Whenever you can shorten a sentence, do. And one always can. The best sentence? The shortest.”

But a barrage of short sentences isn’t the answer either. If all your sentences are short, your writing will have a choppy, staccato style. So please, vary the length of your sentences—making some short, and some not—aiming for an average length of 20 words to achieve greatest readability. It will make your writing much more interesting.

That is all for now …

Leave a comment

Filed under Style