A Period Piece

March 31, 2022


In writing, as in most things, variety tends to be the spice of life. 

While I usually eschew lazy repetition—of words, phrases, sentence structure—you’ll have to forgive me, because I’m going to repeat myself here. Yes, I’m going to talk about soccer. Again. 

How can I not? 

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, those beyond the binary—Canada is going to the World Cup Finals! 

For anyone who has been asleep—or simply not interested in soccer (blasphemy!), this is big news.  

The last time Canada qualified—actually, the ONLY time we’ve qualified since the World Cup began in 1930—was in 1986. 36 years ago! 

That year, the team travelled to Mexico, dutifully played its three games in the group stage, and promptly went home without scoring a goal or gaining a single point. On the stage of the biggest sporting event in the world (yes, my friends, more people around the globe tune into the World Cup than any other event, even the Olympics), Canada simply did not register. 

To be honest, not many ordinary Canadians were troubled by this state of affairs. To be brutally honest, it’s likely not many even noticed. I mean, it’s not like we’re Spain or Portugal or Argentina or Brazil. Actual soccer nations. 

Or Italy. Ah Italy…what heartbreak. After winning the European Championship last year with such gusto, the Azzurri shocked the world by failing to qualify for the World Cup. For Italy, this is nothing short of a national disaster. If Italy were Canada, the country would already have convened a public inquiry demanding to know “how” and “why” and “who”, and vowing, “never again.” 

But we are Canada. A hockey nation. And so it went…every four years, we tried – sort of – to qualify, and every four years, we failed.

Until now. Now Canada is in. Decisively so.

Canada goes into the 2022 tournament at the top of its division, CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football). In the final qualifying round, Canada played 14 games, winning 8, drawing 4 and losing only 2. While that record was matched by powerhouse Mexico, we scored the most goals of the group—25 to Mexico’s 21 and the US’s 17.

This edition of the Canadian men’s team is the real deal. We have pace, agility, intelligence, brotherhood and belief. 

Not only that, the men's qualifier comes on the heels of another huge Canadian soccer accomplishment—the Olympic Gold our women’s national team captured in Tokyo. (Leave it to the women to show the lads the way.) 

All this is to say: Canada IS a soccer nation. Period.  

Period? Did someone say period? 

If you’re one of those who’s never given a thought to our men’s national soccer team before today, then I’m going to bet you’ve given equally short shrift to this punctuation mark. 

OK. This, I can forgive. Graphically speaking, the period is the smallest of marks. Usage wise, the period is also the easiest to master. It goes at the end of a sentence. Full stop. 

But what if you have multiple punctuation marks? Aha. That’s when things can get a little tricky. 

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any real logic behind where and when you use the period in these cases. It’s more like, “I know it when I see it.” You just have to remember the rules. So, here they are. 

1. Question and exclamation marks
If your sentence ends with one of these, omit the period and use the other mark instead. For example: 

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Not: Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?. 
Take me out to the football game! Not: Take me out to the football game!. 

2. Abbreviations
Again, if your sentence ends with an abbreviation, like “Inc.” or “Ltd.”, or even “a.m.” or “p.m.”, leave it at that. No need to add a second period. 

On a related note, periods were traditionally used to indicate an abbreviation, as in Mr., Ms. and Dr. However, initialisms like those, as well as acronyms, are increasingly being written without the periods:  “US” for “U.S.” and “FBI”, rather than “F.B.I.” This is a matter of style—both are correct—but if you want to be fashionable, then feel free to drop the periods between the letters. 

3. Parentheses
It depends. If your sentence ends with a bit in parentheses (or brackets), and that bit is part of the larger sentence, then place the period outside the parentheses. 

Example: Hotel rooms in Qatar are likely to be pricey in November and December (when the World Cup is on). 

If the parenthetical bit is its own complete sentence, then the period goes inside

Example: Alphonso Davies is one of Canada’s soccer stars. (He also happens to be a key player for his German club, Bayern Munich.) 

4. Quotations
If your sentence ends with words in quotation marks, then place the period inside the quotation marks. 

Example: Coach John Herdman’s pre-game pep talk began and ended with the word “believe.” 

Consistent with rule #1 above, do not add a period to the end of the sentence if the quoted text ends with a question or exclamation mark. 

Example: Just a few short months ago, we were asking ourselves, “Is Canada qualifying for the World Cup even possible?” 

5. Ellipsis
An ellipsis is three periods in a row (like we have in hockey). Sigh … in Canada, it always seems to come back to hockey. (Soccer, by the way, is a game of two halves.) 

Writers sometimes use an ellipsis as a way to insert a pause (see above) or to suggest that their thoughts have trailed off. However, the most common use of the ellipsis is to indicate that you’ve omitted something from within a quoted passage. 

Example: Quoting Simon Houpt in The Globe and Mail: “When Cycle Larin, a striker from Brampton, scored Canada’s first goal 13 minutes into the match … , a chant broke out among the Voyageurs: ‘If you love Brampton, clap your hands’”.

Apologies—the punctuation on that last example is a little messy due to the quote within a quote. The point is, the ellipsis represents a bit of text I omitted from Houpt's original sentence: “en route to victory and a World Cup berth.” 

When it comes to formatting an ellipsis, the general advice for business writing is to put a space both before and after the three dots. Think of the ellipsis as standing in for a word. 

If the omitted bit of text happens to come at the end of a sentence, use the ellipsis plus a period. In other words, four dots. (Like football, or gridiron as the Aussies call it, with its four quarters.) 

And while we’re talking numbers, let us settle, once and for all, the question of how many spaces go after a period.

Unless you’re still using a typewriter—and hats off to you if you are—there is absolutely no need to hit the spacebar twice after a period. Modern computers and word processing software automatically adjust the space after a period so that the next sentence is perfectly placed.

I did learn to type on an old manual typewriter, way back in the mid-70s. Trust me—in this regard, the transition to a computer was nothing short of marvellous. 

Just like Canada qualifying for the World Cup. 

Remember this: 
The period may seem like an easy punctuation mark to master…but beware of the rules when you have multiple marks. 

Punctuation | Writing Tips & Tools