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Acrylic's avatar

Why do telegrams print out "STOP" to end a sentence?

Asked by Acrylic (3358points) June 2nd, 2023
7 responses
“Great Question” (1points)

Never understood that. Reading a book, The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (it’s a young adult book but I don’t care), which is set in the 1967–68 school year in Long Island, and a teacher gets a telegram where STOP is printed out instead of using periods. That makes it very confusing, is there a reason why this is done that way?

BTW I’m almost done, and would give the book 4 out of 5 stars. It’s almost as good as the 5 of 5 perfectly written Pink and Green books.

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Forever_Free's avatar

Telegrams charged for punctuation STOP
People would save money by using the word “stop” instead of periods to end sentences because punctuation was extra while the four character word was free STOP
Additionally the Government employed it widely as a precaution against having messages garbled or misunderstood, as a result of the misplacement or emission of the tiny dot or period STOP

Acrylic's avatar

@Forever_Free Interesting. Not sure why a period would cost more, but this explanation makes sense. Thanks. They’ll still be hard to read, now I’ll just know why.

janbb's avatar

I believe without looking it up that telegrams were usually transmitted and often delivered verbally so the “Stop” at the end of a sentence makes it clearer where the breaks are when it is read aloud.

Zaku's avatar

They need a symbol for end-of-sentence, and chose STOP.

It has the advantage (over, say, PERIOD) of being short.

Forever_Free's avatar

I did more research on this as knowing computer coding and character sets it made no sense to me. More research on this shows that the cost factor was a myth.

Morse code originally had only capital letters and no punctuation. This generally was not much of a problem, but during the first world war when telegrams were widely used in the military, a misunderstood message could be disastrous. The custom arose of using the word STOP between sentences in military telegrams so that any ambiguous phrases would not be misinterpreted. The custom caught on with the public. Even after punctuation was introduced with a way to submit an extended character set. people continued fashionably using STOP between sentences in telegrams even though they didn’t have to.

Acrylic's avatar

@ Forever_Free Interesting. Kind of reminds me of the 1970s CB radio craze. So many got them, started talking in CB lingo (That’s a big 10–4, we’ll catch you on the flipside. 10–10 and gone.) People would talk that way even when not using their CB.

Forever_Free's avatar

@Acrylic That’s a big 10–4
My Father was into Ham radio when the CB craze hit. He had several friends from the CB side because it was a local social thing. Getting the CB license was so much easier than a Ham Operator license. I did my share of Ham radio exploring with his equipment as a kid. I did have to know Morse Code to get my license. That is exactly why the cost thing marinated in my head to research more.

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