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Subject:U.S. vs. British Quotes From:Thomas Quine <thomas -dot- quine -at- NCOMPASSLABS -dot- COM> Date:Fri, 11 Sep 1998 08:34:30 -0700
As a Canadian who has worked for Canadian, British, and American companies,
I can assure you the issue of International English vs. American English is
a hot one. I've seen British customers return product because of American
punctuation. Major international corporations such as Nortel spend
literally millions of dollars producing two and sometimes three versions of
the same manual.
With specific reference to the issue of punctuation within or outside
quotation marks, I've always thought the British approach made most sense.
Take the example below:
1. At the Home prompt, type "a compile test."
2. At the Home prompt, type "a compile test".
3. At the Home prompt, type a compile test.
In this case, the quotes are necessary to make clear exactly what should be
typed. Example 3 above is confusing.
Example 1 uses American punctuation. If the reader takes the instructions
literally, they will type a period at the end of the string.
Example 2 is British punctuation, which I think more accurately reflects
the intent. I think what resides within the quotation marks is what they
call in mathematics a "real" value.
The disadvantage to British punctuation is mainly typographical.
Punctuation looks a little awkward hanging outside the quotes.