Why The New York Times published a story with (almost) no periods

You might say The New York Times was trying to make a point.

On Friday, the newspaper published a story — on its front page, no less — with just two periods in the text. The story, written by reporter Dan Bilefsky, is a 700-word exploration of why periods (also known as points or full stops) are on their way out. Here are the nutgrafs, which appear sans periods.

The period — the full-stop signal we all learn as children, whose use stretches back at least to the Middle Ages — is gradually being felled in the barrage of instant messaging that has become synonymous with the digital age

So says David Crystal, who has written more than 100 books on language and is a former master of original pronunciation at Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London — a man who understands the power of tradition in language

The story goes on to cite the rise of texting, tweeting and Facebooking as giving rise to an informal style that often goes ungarnished by end punctuation.

The piece provoked some pushback from grammar purists, some that used periods to make emphatic points (still a valid use, according to the story):

https://twitter.com/adviceineeded/status/741201698056724480

https://twitter.com/JimAloisi/status/741151923777249280

https://twitter.com/fearnohill/status/741150962786668544

https://twitter.com/jonathanmastro/status/741113718029881344

https://twitter.com/MikeMcDoug/status/741108708604825600

But some illustrated the article's point with period-less tweets:

https://twitter.com/natives/status/741102472597516288

https://twitter.com/MrsDrLondon/status/741148451736539144

So, why go without periods? Michael Slackman, the international managing editor of The New York Times, said in an email the decision rested on an old journalism standby:

"@poynter: U know the writer's rule: Show, don't tell! How better 2 drive home pt abt how we all comm now? + it was fun"

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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