In the US, a colon separates chapters and verses of the Bible, like this: John 3:16. That how I learned, too. But now I use a period instead of a colon. Why?

  1. That’s the normal way in Brazil, that the versions we use follow. (There are actually three ways of doing it: Catholics use a comma. Pentecostals, like Americans, use a colon. Other evangelicals and Protestants use a period.)
  2. Visually, it looks better. A period provides more white space between the numbers than a colon.
  3. The Brits also use a period. The Brits used to be cool, if not so much any more.
  4. I decided to standardize my practice across languages, and the period was the best candidate.
  5. Typing a period is also easier, one less keystroke, so I gain in time and energy.

Number 5 is the real biggie here. Speed and ease win, hands down.

19 thoughts on “Why I use a period to separate Bible chapters and verses

    • Would be interesting to read the history behind all these different practices.Where’s there ISO standard for Bible citations?

    • Okay, I came through search engine after seeing the period in academic settings and being confused, since I thought APA prescribed the colon. I read numbers 2 and 5 as “Numbers (Bəmiḏbar, 4th book of the Torah), chapters 2 and 5.”
      So I was looking for a clever pun as I just read the camp arrangement in the wilderness and the priest’s ritual for wives of suspicious husbands. I was confused.

  1. I was using the period to resemble earlier scholarly writings, and I was writing shorter abbreviations for Twitter, etc. I had to change back to the colon because academic writing requires a semicolon for the purpose of setting the Bible apart from all other literature. Honestly, I think that is a strong point for using the colon. Somehow, I think that I will manage to keep you in fellowship.

  2. Here’s a reason you didn’t mention: periods can be saved as part of a document’s file name, whereas colons cannot (e.g. I can save my sermon outline with 2 Kings 4.8-10, but I cannot save 2 Kings 4:8-10). That said, I still have not abandoned the colon…or the ellipsis…

What do you think?