Rules for quotations: techwr-l tie-in

Subject: Rules for quotations: techwr-l tie-in
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 1999 08:25:29 -0400

Michael Larson, raising the eternal question of whether to put
punctuation inside or outside the quotation marks, has
<<...never understood the reason for/concept of having it all
one way or all the other.>>

One word: consistency. It's far easier to provide your writers
with a single, simple, consistent rule, than trying to remember
the exceptions. Trust me: I've spent years trying to teach
some writers the comparitively simple rule for hyphenating
compound adjectives, and thrown my hands up in despair.
Consistency makes it easier on your editor too, since there are
fewer relatively trivial things (punctuation) to fix, and that lets
the editor concentrate on the important, substantive matters.

He then compared two examples: <<"I can't believe were're
discussing rules for using quotes."... vs. The use of quote
marks in that case was deemed "silly". It seems in the first
case that the period is clearly part of the quoted text while in
the second it is just as clearly not part of the quoted text. I
know that we don't apply different rules, but I don't know

I prefer the system variously called "logical" or "British": you
place the punctuation inside the quote only if it's part of the
quote. (The main exception, which we don't deal with here: in
writing fiction, there are specific rules for formatting dialog.)
The issue of where to place the quotes next to the punctuation
is particularly important in technical writing because in some
cases, placing the punctuation inside the quote can mislead
the reader into believing that the punctuation is important too,
rather than merely a part of the sentence structure. This used
to be more of a problem when the things we wanted readers
to type were enclosed in quotes, rather than being set in a
different font or placed on their own line.

<<Which leads to the question, is there a reason for the rule
(or is it entirely an arbitrary creation of the Gods of

Guess what? It's both. <g> I've explained the reason above,
but choosing American (inside the quotes) vs. British
punctuation style is an arbitrary matter of style. With the
possible exceptions I mentioned above, neither rule is really
inherently better than the other.

<<And is the use of parentheses any different?>>

Well, let's put it this way: I've never seen a style guide that
advocates putting punctuation inside the terminal parenthesis
unless it's part of the contents of the parenthetical phrase, so
you can draw your own conclusions. The same rule applies to
parenthetical clauses set off with commas. Consistency!

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Though the editor is the author's ally, she should never forget that
she is also the reader's first line of defense."--Shoshanna Green

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