Re: Using Punctuation in and out of Quotes

Subject: Re: Using Punctuation in and out of Quotes
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 08 Oct 2004 10:39:22 -0400

Justin Ressler wrote:

It is likely that this has been hashed out before, so feel free to respond only off list.

Nah, what fun would that be?

Brief research indicates that there is a difference between American usage and other countries (primarily British controlled territories) of punctuation inside of quotation marks. It is something that I have concerns over in my own writing, not just technical writing. Is there a more widely way of doing this, or is the preferred method your own as long as you are consistent?

British style follows logic. If the period or comma is part of the quoted material it goes inside; if it is not part of the quoted material it goes outside.

In American usage, until recently, the period and comma always went inside; semicolons and colons always went outside; and queries and bangs went inside or outside based on the logic of the particular context. However, since the advent of desktop publishing and the consequent burgeoning of amateur typesetting, there has been a trend, especially in programming references, to push periods and commas outside the quotation marks for things like command line examples and instructions. I think there are usually better ways to handle this situation, such as displaying the command line in a different font or on a line by itself, rather than in quotes. However, there are plenty of published examples that use quotes with the period or comma following. Very often, to maintain consistency, the editor will use the same convention in running narrative, as well, even when code examples are not involved. Usually, though, they get it wrong in that they force _all_ periods and commas outside the quotes, regardless of logic. This is not the British system; it is a perversion/reversal of the American system, instead. I think it looks stupid, but that's just one guy's opinion.

I am more apt to follow logic than silly conventions based on the printing press, if that is truly why we Americans do it that way. I read most of my information from the site listed below.

Well, a convention is a convention. It doesn't have to be logical. However, the rationale you referenced is pure urban myth. It is misinformation, not information. Now go wash out your mind with soap.




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Using Punctuation in and out of Quotes: From: Justin Ressler

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