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Mr. Alex 12-30-2012 05:41 AM

Why is US style of punctuation with quotation marks this way?
 
Hi all! I was searching info on this subject - commas and periods inside or outside of quotation marks and everything seems to say pretty much the same except one forum post somewhere where an OP was referring to some source explaining why US style of punctuation places commas and periods inside quotes like:

Quote:

"Use 'tar' with 'xz' for better compression," said John.
instead of

Quote:

"Use 'tar' with 'xz' for better compression", said John.
I thought to digg into it later and now I can't find that page.

Does anyone know the reason of placing commas inside?

brianL 12-30-2012 06:10 AM

I don't know why they do it, but the Americans are wrong again - as usual. ;) :)

cascade9 12-30-2012 06:51 AM

Maybe this was the page you were looking at?

http://grammartips.homestead.com/inside.html

Though I'm sure I've seen a better explanation with more little bits and pieces like 'semicolons and colons always go outside the quotation marks', stuffed if I can find it now.

Yet another example of how rules made to simplify things (like the US style 'punctuation inside quotation marks') can be stupid, and having a more flexible approach is better IMO. Then again, the world is full of stupid people....

Thad E Ginataom 12-30-2012 06:52 AM

I think this is a very easy mistake to make with English, and does not depend on which side of the Atlantic one grew up on. I think I make it too sometimes. So far as my side (UK) is concerned, English grammar has been a bit anything-goes for past several decades, but inside the quotes is "correct." <---which in this example, seems to me to be counter-intuitive!

273 12-30-2012 07:09 AM

I put the punctuation where it makes sense so, for example:
The man shouted "Hey, you!" at John.
Jeremy said "I don't like fish.", apparently. [if that's all he said]
or
Jeremy said "I don't like fish ...", apparently. [if he went on to say more]
In other words I only quote what was said, as if it were a string literal. This may not be strictly correct but I'd rather be logically correct then follow some arbitrary rule.
Grammar rules change all the time and are often only there because of somebody's affectation (spelling is like this also with "color" and "colour", for example). As long as you're not publishing what you type then it ought not to matter, provided you make your meaning clear, and in that case you would have house guidelines to tell you what to do.

Mr. Alex 12-30-2012 09:13 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cascade9 (Post 4859452)
Maybe this was the page you were looking at?

http://grammartips.homestead.com/inside.html

Defenitely not. The source I'm talking about was saying something about times of mechanical typewriters or something like this... My bad I haven't focused my attention on it.

jefro 12-30-2012 10:23 AM

We drive on the right side of the road.

Your search for answers would be more well suited to an American English web site. Opps, that was a poorly written sentence.

Thad E Ginataom 12-30-2012 10:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr. Alex (Post 4859515)
Defenitely not. The source I'm talking about was saying something about times of mechanical typewriters or something like this...

There's a fragment at the bottom which claims that commas inside the quotes goes back to a matter of hand typesetting. I can't say for sure, but it doesn't sound likely to me. I never set type by hand myself, but I've worked for a publisher/printer that had a letterpress department, and we did hand setting and I worked a lot with the printers and typesetters. I used to do layout for order forms, with multiple columns of |......1226/X123......| and we never lost any of those periods, which are just as small as a comma.

(Then we got a phototypesetter, and I learned how to photo-typeset them, which was my first contact with anything actually "computerised," and the precursor to my being given a Unix system to find out how to manage. But that's another story :). The chief hand typesetter got to learn the photo-typesetting, but, sadly, I didn't get to learn his craft.)

Mr. Alex 12-30-2012 11:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Thad E Ginataom (Post 4859555)
There's a fragment at the bottom which claims that commas inside the quotes goes back to a matter of hand typesetting.

The one I'm talking about is a forum thread with discussion.

frankbell 12-30-2012 09:11 PM

Traditionally, commas and periods have been placed inside quotation marks because it looks better in typewritten or handwritten copy; there is no other reason.

As far as I am concerned, it looks better in variable-spaced fonts too, though I know that the UK Guardian disagrees with me.

They are allowed to be wrong.

Large punctuation marks, such as question marks and exclamation points, are placed inside quotation marks only if they are part of the quotation. One ending punctuation mark per sentence suffices.

Compare, for example,

Quote:

He said, "Get lost!"

I could not believe he said, "Get lost"!

He asked, "What time is it?"

Did he ask, "What time is it"?

k3lt01 12-30-2012 09:25 PM

273 has it correct. When placing the , inside the quotation marks it indicates there is more to the sentence but that what is within the marks is all that was quoted.

273 12-30-2012 09:28 PM

As I tried to say, badly, I tend to use quotes as I would quote tags or quotes in C/C++/whatever and quote what I wish to. If "grammar" dictates that I'm wrong to do so it's obviously flawed and ought to be ignored.

frankbell 12-30-2012 09:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by k3lt01 (Post 4859787)
273 has it correct. When placing the , inside the quotation marks it indicates there is more to the sentence but that what is within the marks is all that was quoted.

In the States, we would use elipses to indicate that a portion was omitted from a quotation:

Quote:

The politician said, "I cannot take a position on that issue."

The politician said, "I cannot take a position . . . ."
Frankly, I do not believe and have never read or been taught (and I've read extensively on grammar and syntax, having made my living with my pen most of my career) that the position of the comma is adequate to convey anything to a casual reader. If that is how it is interpreted in the Commonwealth, the secret is deeply held.:)

odiseo77 12-30-2012 09:57 PM

I thought placing the periods and the commas inside the quotation marks was the rule for English in general (not only US English). BTW, I find it awkward and unnatural unless it's an exclamation/question sign that is part of the phrase you're quoting (as in frankbell's example above).

So, if someone ends a paragraph in an academic paper with some author's quote, do they have to put the full stop period inside the quotation marks? It would look weird to me :)

k3lt01 12-31-2012 01:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by frankbell (Post 4859789)
In the States, we would use elipses to indicate that a portion was omitted from a quotation:

The use of elipses is used if there is no other break.

Quote:

Originally Posted by frankbell (Post 4859789)
Frankly, I do not believe and have never read or been taught (and I've read extensively on grammar and syntax, having made my living with my pen most of my career) that the position of the comma is adequate to convey anything to a casual reader. If that is how it is interpreted in the Commonwealth, the secret is deeply held.:)

Punctuation is important, it breaks sentences and/or paragraphs into smaller portions. Whether a casual reader knowingly understands this or not is neither here nor there. I have seen enough posts in LQ telling people to format their posts differently so they can be more easily understood to think casual readers do actually understand the need for punctuation.


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