While browsing news of COVID-19, politics, and hurricanes, I stumbled across an article in the Telegraph about a new and dire situation. It stopped me in my tracks. This is a quote from the article (warning: sensitive readers may find content upsetting):
“Linguists believe that full stops have fallen out of fashion with young people because they ‘signify an abrupt or angry tone of voice'”
Reading such disturbing news about the seemingly innocuous little round spot that ends sentences was a shocker. Could it be that the period is, in fact, a fake? A fraud, a polarizing monster? The news jarred me awake faster than my first coffee of the day. Yes, it was that jarring.
Turns out that the vicious little dot in question has been up to all sorts of no good all these years, and it has an entire generation up in arms. Whereas the rest of us have been oblivious to the toxic nature of the sentence-ender, young people, decidedly more alert to things that offend, have declared that the period is not only offensive, it is a period piece, a relic from olden days used by clueless old people (read: anybody over 25). Periods, as it turns out, interfere with the gentle nature of texting, and nobody, not even a period, gets to mess with a Gen Z’s gentle texting.
To gain a better understanding of the situation, picture the period as a nightclub bouncer who aggressively pushes words away once a sentence (or nightclub) (stay with me here) is full. “No. There are enough words in there already. Go home. You’re drunk.”
The theoretical bouncer-period might also turn away words that are too immature (and we all know words like that) (and use ’em, too), so it puts a full stop to the nonsense. “Sorry, this ends now. I need to see some ID,” and whereas minors might produce fake ID to get into a nightclub, immature words are effectively stopped because they are just words, struggling with their own meaning, unable to defend their place in the sentence.
Bottom line: when the period unilaterally declares “okay stop it, we’re done here” it is widely interpreted by young people as the height of arrogance.
Since the periodic situation makes youth feel intimidated, they, in that perfect youthful sense of righteous indignation about most everything, are hitting back. The entire generation, aficionados of cancel culture, are cancelling the period, full stop.
Use of the period, traumatized Gen Zers explain, is a sign of anger, impatience, even insincerity. This could explain why people are so angry these days, we are inundated with periods. Everywhere you look, there’s one lurking, waiting to stop you. Why, in this paragraph alone there are four or five of ’em depending on how many I edit out. You recognize now that you must be reading words written by an angry and impatient person.
Interestingly, the period was involved in an earlier controversy a decade or so ago, when the in-thing among cool cats was to place a space between the last letter of a sentence and the period . (<<< like that) Perhaps that was the start of it all, perhaps it was the start of today’s emotional distancing from the rabidly punctuational devil dot.
But here’s the thing, if periods signal anger, then what of the comma, for surely it screams indecision? And capitalization, pretty snobbish? And is the exclamation mark not just an attention-seeking period dressed up in drama? Semi-colons, of course, are semi rude, and colons considerably ruder (mind you, the colon, like Uranus, is a requisite part of a tween’s developing sense of humour).
Is it only a matter of time before all punctuation is recognized as too bossy, and therefore worthy of being cancelled? These are things we must consider as we move forward into a world where run-on sentences may never end.
And so, in closing ~
i pen this paragraph in solidarity with generation z as a way to allow the periodically triggered to bloom in the safety of a carefully crafted paragraph unsullied by offensive punctuation or capitalization although this may end up being a pretty long paragraph since i have no clue how to stop it without a period and wait have you ever wondered whether paragraphs themselves might also problematic because let’s face it they seem a bit elitist if you think about the way they gather in groups of words then refuse to associate with other groups of words even to the point of demanding an entire blank line to separate them which makes me wonder if they’re next in the cancel culture bin but excuse me i really must find a way out of this sentence or paragraph or love letter or whatever it is because love them or hate them a full stop might help here just so i can bloody go do something else dammit
This editorial was written by Jo Slade. Jo has been messing around with words for a long time. Sometimes she’ll just say the words rather than writing them, to save on paper. Occasionally words fail her, but when that happens she just rounds them up and forces them into sentences to keep them in line.
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