Most people wouldn’t even notice that there are errors in all the above examples. But there are! It is the use of the word of which is problematic. In each case, the correct word to use is have and not of. The issue has arisen because the contracted forms of could have, would have and should have are could’ve, would’ve and should’ve. These sound as if they feature the word of when said out loud.
Double spaces after full stops?
It used to be grammatically correct to insert two spaces after any full stop which ended a sentence. This practice made sense in the days of typewriters with letters of uniform width. Without that extra space, text could look cramped and could be difficult to read. Since the arrival of word processors and variable width fonts, the use of double spaces has become increasingly rare. But some people still insist that a double space is the correct choice.
Research into the readability of text has yielded contradictory findings regarding the double space. Some studies have suggested that the double space makes texts easier to read. Other studies have concluded that the double space is unnecessary. Most word processors will not flag either a single or double space as incorrect, leaving the writer to decide how they wish to present their copy.
We are left with a situation where either a single or double space is deemed grammatically correct. But it might have been better if the double space had prevailed. Not because it makes text easier to read but because it emphasises that a sentence which is completed by an abbreviation has ended.
So, how should you punctuate a sentence that ends in an abbreviation?
How to punctuate abbreviations
Firstly, it is important to point out that you should not enter a second full stop after any abbreviation which completes a sentence. However, you should enter all other appropriate punctuation marks such as questions marks and exclamation marks.
Incorrect: The new series of my favourite television programme starts tonight on the B.B.C! I can’t wait!
Correct: The new series of my favourite television programme starts tonight on the B.B.C.! I can’t wait!
Incorrect: My favourite television programmes are mostly broadcast on the B.B.C.. I also enjoy watching the football on Sky.
Correct: My favourite television programmes are mostly broadcast on the B.B.C. I also enjoy watching the football on Sky.
In these situations, you can avoid the issue of the ambiguous full stop at the end of the sentence by omitting full stops from your abbreviations entirely. It is acceptable to omit full stops from abbreviations but only when they are capitalised.
You must also remain consistent when writing abbreviations. If you omit the full stops from one abbreviation, you should omit them from all similar abbreviations that feature in your text.
Incorrect: My favourite TV programmes are mostly broadcast on the BBC. However, there are a couple of series on I.T.V that I enjoy.
Correct: My favourite TV programmes are mostly broadcast on the BBC. However, there are a couple of series on ITV that I enjoy.
We hope that we have clarified these confusing aspects of English grammar for you. It is very difficult to get things right, especially when the experts can’t agree on what the best practice actually is!