Why did telegrams not have a period STOP

Whenever you hear someone read a telegram, they say the word “stop” at the end of the sentence STOP Why did they do that STOP It seems simpler to send a a single code for period rather than 4 letters STOP And didn’t people pay by the letter STOP It seems like all those stops would cost a lot of extra money STOP

Normally, telegrams were charged by the word, not the letter, so sending a word such as STOP would not be more expensive to the sender than sending a one-code punctuation mark, which would also have counted as a word.

While present-day morse code contains a character for a period (that’s a triple A, or .-.-.-), I think Morse’s initial code chart did not have special characters. So the STOP was just a substitute for that, to make telegrams more easily understandable by dividing the text into phrases.

By the way, your question is phrased slightly inaccurately (historically) in that it ends with a STOP. Since the purpose of the STOP was to divide the text into phrases for ease of understanding, there would not have been a need for a STOP at the end, and normally people would not put one there.

Well because just a period is an E.

Slightly more seriously, there is a period (full stop to our UK brethren) which is ..._

I don’t know if saying “stop” is just a grammatical notation.

There was an SD thread about it:


I think post 3 covers it.

“STOP” was inserted in the old fashioned telegrams at the end of sentences, because punctuation used to cost extra. Letters were free (up to a limit). So senders would make their messages such that it made use of this limit.

You could get the wording under the limit, even using “STOP” and avoid punctuation charges.

Graham Greene’s truly great novel Our Man in Havana has the protagonist, Jim Wormold, encipher and send a number of telegraphic reports to the MI5 with full punctuation spelt out: Not just “comma” and “colon”, but also “beginning paragraph three” etc.

I only sent telegrams once or twice – and about 50 years ago – but, knowing about the “STOP” convention, read up on the rules, and found that you could use normal punctuation, and a full-stop or comma did not get charged as a full word, at least by the Australian Post Office (as it was then.)