Using punctuation in and out of quotes?

Subject: Using punctuation in and out of quotes?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 08 Oct 2004 11:15:43 -0400

Justin Ressler wondered: <<It is likely that this has been hashed out before, so feel free to respond only off list.>>

Yes, many times. Check the archives. (Is that the techwr-l equivalent of RTFM? <G>)

Brief research indicates that there is a difference between American usage and other countries (primarily British controlled territories)

Ahem. We Canadians and our Aussie friends, among others, might beg to differ over the latter characterization. <g> Perhaps "British influenced"?

<<Is there a more widely way of doing this, or is the preferred method your own as long as you are consistent?>>

Consistency is important, but has two aspects to keep in mind: within a document or series of documents, and externally, with the expectations of your audience. If you've been following an American style guide that uses "always punctuate inside the quotes, even if this is misleading", you should continue using that style because it's what your readers are familiar with.

Although a change to "logical" (British) punctuation, with punctuation marks inside the quotes only if they belong there, might seem logical, there's probably little significant advantage to this system outside of fields such as literature and history, where the punctuation must be preserved correctly in quotes. The biggest problem with logical punctuation is that it seems inconsistent to readers, since most aren't sophisticated enough to recognize what you're doing: all they see is the erratic punctuation, not the reason for it.

<<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. it says *There are peculiar typographical reasons why the period and comma go inside the quotation mark in the United States. The following explanation comes from the "Frequently Asked Questions" file of alt.english.usage: "In the days when printing used raised bits of metal, "." and "," were the most delicate, and were in danger of damage (the face of the piece of type might break off from the body, or be bent or dented from above) if they had a '"' on one side and a blank space on the other.>>

This explanation defies logic. Traditional typography often used a style called "hung" punctuation, in which terminal punctuation at the ends of lines of type was set outside the column margin. As a result, the "heavy" ink (characters that take up most of the typeface's x-height) form a visually strong vertical line; this line is disrupted when "light" ink (periods and commas and other characters that use up only a tiny fraction of the line's vertical space) fall at the margin of a page.

If the explanation was true, then this punctuation style would have been abandoned because it would have caused too many problems. It _was_ abandoned for a long time in desktop publishing simply because the software didn't support this style and it was too much trouble for most designers (those who were aware of this style) to do manually. I believe InDesign is the only software that automatically allows hung punctuation, but don't quote me on this. Anyone able to confirm?

--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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

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