The Washington Post reported about a supposedly missing period in the Declaration of Independence. They should have read the words instead of listening to Harvard professor Danielle Allen who came up with the invalid idea that the period would change the meaning. They’re wrong. It makes no difference.

The language is clear. So is the meaning and it makes no difference to the meaning if there is or is not a period. English uses clauses to give meaning to the clauses. English also uses grammar to pinpoint the meanings of the clauses. When the clauses are clear enough, as they are in the Declaration of Independence, commas, dashes and periods make no difference to the meaning. Regardless of the use of a period to separate the clauses, the meaning is the same with or without the period.

The second sentence of the Declaration which is simultaneously the second paragraph provides a list of things called “truths”. The List is long. The truth’s are the moral basis to eliminate the power of the King of England over the people in the 13 colonies. How do we know if the so-called truth’s are true or not? The first eight words tell us.

1. “We hold these truth’s to be self-evident”. Well, maybe they are or maybe they are not but the basis Jefferson used to prove they are true is: they exist. The second clause is: 2. “that all men are created equal”. Grammatically that clause or phrase can stand alone. In the Declaration it’s set apart by a commas. That’s called writers choice. If you prefer to separate the clauses by a semi-colon, it’s OK. In the Declaration a comma is used.

The third clause is: 3. “that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights”. The next clause is: 4.”that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” Next is: 5.”that to secure these rights government’s are instituted by men”. The list continues but a professor has a problem. She thinks a period was left out between clauses #4 and #5.

Here are the five clauses all together: 1.”We hold these truth’s to be self-evident”. 2.”that all men are created equal”. 3.”that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights”. 4.”that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” 5.”that to secure these rights government’s are instituted by men”.

Those clauses can be separated by whatever kinds of separators someone wants to use or they can run on without any separators at all. Here they are as a run on: “We hold these truth’s to be self-evident that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness that to secure these rights government’s are instituted by men. that’s a bit clumsy but it makes sense. In the copy of the Declaration that the professor claims in missing a period there’s a dash. It that case the dash does the separating but it a period would also work. Here’s the stupidity of claiming the meaning is changed if the period in used. The meaning is the same because the words are clear with a dash or a period and a dash between clauses #4 and #5.

You shouldn’t always believe the professor. Or the Washington Post that reported the stupid idea about a missing period. One could just as easy claim lots of periods are missing. They aren’t. The professor and the Washington Post are wrong.

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