What color is your full stop?

Trigger Question #143 — reading time: about 2.1 minutes

“I can’t stop ‘cos I got no full-stop.”

Red is not a challenge

What keeps you safe is not hostile.

The other evening, I slowed down to a stop because the traffic light ahead turned from green to orange. But that’s just the way I am. The driver in the lane next to me saw the amber light as a spur, and sped up through the intersection.

And then calm set in as all the drivers in the four arms of the intersection waited in anticipation of their light turning green. Well, not all the drivers. One idiot had not yet stopped. He had, in fact, not even slowed down. Red was obviously his bull color.

In colors we trust

Sitting there, relieved that there was a gap of seconds between red and green to protect innocent drivers, I mulled over the purpose of traffic lights. I am amazed at how we trust that three colors will safely control the flow of metal missiles.

And then I wondered if traffic lights will become less effective now that a younger generation of drivers see the use of punctuation as hostile.

Full-stops are intimidating. Really?

Apparently… I feel obliged to use the word “apparently,” because I struggle to believe that this report is true. Apparently, younger generations believe that punctuation is hostile. Specifically, full-stops intimidate them. (Here’s looking at you, developers of smartphones, texting, and social media.)

Rules rule for a reason

We use full-stops for two main reasons. “I have finished one statement of thought. Here’s another.” Or “I’m done. Now it’s your turn to speak.”

The polite “now it’s your turn” of the red light is critical at traffic intersections. It saves lives.

Believe it or not, that polite “now it’s your turn” of the full-stop during communication serves a similar function. It stops us in our tracks before we blurt out something that could embarrass or hurt. (Or, this being in the USA, could make a gun appear.)

Let red make you stop and think

Please don’t be upset at the red full-stop at the intersection. It keeps you safe. Use the time waiting for your green light to thank punctuation. Punctuation keeps you safe from misunderstanding or from being misunderstood.

The most important pedal in life

And then remember the most important pedal in your car. No, not the gas pedal. Not the pedal that speeds you past the hostile red light. It’s the other one. The brake pedal. The one that brings you to a stop, safely.

When communicating at work, at home, and in public, the most important pedal is… knowing when to use a full-stop… when to shut up. Safely.

Use it, often. Else others will label you hostile.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.

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