Is it true the British have abolished punctuation?

Dear Cecil:

In a recent note from the British consulate regarding certain weird little interests of mine, I see that Her Majesty's minions are eschewing all punctuation in heading and greeting. Plus, incredibly, complimentary close! Are UK civil servants just being ordered to save typewriter ribbon until another North Sea oil gusher comes in? Or are we former colonists in for a bout of creeping depunctuation?

Cecil replies:

Could be, babushka. British tastemakers decided that the rococo effusion of commas and periods that graces the average business letter was an excess that might well be dispensed with in an age of scarcity. A fair amount of punctuation continues to be used, of course, notably the period at the end of a sentence. But periods are often dropped from abbreviations. The Brits used to make a distinction between a true abbreviation, in which the end of a word is deleted (e.g., Inc. or vol.), and a suspension, in which letters are taken out of the middle of a word (e.g., Mr., Ltd.). A suspnsn did not get a period, but an abbrev. did. Now, however, the tendency is to expunge periods wherever they raise their reactionary little heads, saving typists hours of soul-destroying labor. Show some consideration for the working classes, you creep.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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