or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, August 20, 2010

Snipe Hunt

I just got a comment on an old blog posting:

After a Google search on the proper spelling of Hallowe'en I came across your blog which was quite interesting. I do have to point out, with your extreme interest in spelling, that you are probably interested in your constant misuse of the quotation marks. Any punctuation that immediately follows a end quote is placed INSIDE that mark. e.g. "Halloween," and "All Hallows' Evening." Just so you know.

Oh, I do so love to be condescended to.

If you are an American, then the rule is indeed that the punctuation mark always goes inside the quotation marks. However, not every single person on the Internet is an American.

Other people--Canadians, for example--use a different system, as even one minute's Googling would have disclosed, which a great many people consider more logical: we look at the punctuation mark and see where it makes more sense, and then we place it there. If what's inside the quotes is a complete sentence, then the terminal mark (period/exclamation mark/question mark) or comma (to replace the terminal mark if there's more following it) goes in there with it, because it belongs to the sentence.

"Drat!" she said for the third time.

"I don't know about you," he said wearily, "but I am going to kill the next person who asks me where the bathroom is."

Otherwise, the punctuation goes outside, because it is not part of the enclosure but of the surrounding sentence.

Puffballs are called "horse farts", at least where I grew up.

This is how I have unfailingly used it in the blog posting, how I was taught to do it, and how I always do it. (Which is not to say I don't slip up from time to time: I don't have an editor.)

People who correct others' English usage do so at the risk of having their own scrutinized and found wanting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, that's the way I do it, too. The "punctuation goes inside the quotation mark all the time" just doesn't make sense--as you showed in your second example.

Friday, August 20, 2010 1:34:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

The amount of vitriol that has been spilled on this topic over the decades is a sad and terrible thing to behold. It's right up there with the "correct" way to denote a date numerically, day-month-year or month-day-year, and the actual starting date of the twentieth century. You just want to take people aside and say, "Really, honestly, who cares? Are there not more important things to devote your energy to?"

The fact is that as long as your sentence is comprehensible, it doesn't really make that much difference. I do think that the British/Canadian way of doing is more sensible, but it doesn't trouble me to see the usual American method. (It was really the tone of the comment that bothered me.)

Friday, August 20, 2010 3:24:00 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

I'm American, and I do do usually use the "correct" method, but I defiantly use the "wrong" method sometimes, too, because it makes more sense. And, really, it was a space-saving measure developed by thrifty American printers that really doesn't serve a purpose anymore other than the weight of tradition.

Friday, August 20, 2010 11:36:00 PM  

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