A footnote in the article addresses this: "More logical still would be to have two periods, one marking the end of the quoted sentence and the other the end of the top-level sentence. But that would be redundant and also look ugly."
I tend to agree with the author. While it's logically consistent, it's typographically redundant. There's no need to end a sentence with a full stop, a quotation mark, another full stop, and then a space, before beginning the next sentence with a capital letter.
I don't see why it is redundant. There is no reason to assume that the quoted sentence ends the quoting sentence. Imagine this being the last thing you see on a page. Without turning the page, there would be no way of knowing whether the quoting sentence is complete.
But these things are just conventions. It's futile to demand any kind of logic or consistency.
It's not the only element of style that may seem illogical, there are many more. Off the top of my head:
* Nested parentheses. (In theory, you could use any level needed (provided that they make sense), but in practice, they're scoffed at.) It is similar with quotes, for the same reasons: limited readability - although here you can at least juggle with single, double and French quotes, depending on the language and style guide used.
* Repetitions: unless used as a stylistic device (in poetry, advertising, etc.), your editors will try to modify repeated words, trying to find synonyms. In technical writing, it is an abomination, and competent editors know very well they must not touch any specific terms, no matter how often repeated, as they have very precise meaning.
But in general, the rules present in style guides are meant to ensure consistency and uniform reading experience, so that the reader is not distracted by form and can concentrate on the meaning, so they are a good thing as long as people are aware these are just arbitrary rules separate from spelling and grammar.
In general writing, you have to be careful to balance repetition. At one extreme is what's been called "elegant variation" and at the other is monotonous repetition, which hurts readability.
But, as you say, in technical writing, it's enormously irritating. I do a fair bit of freelance writing, and it pisses me off no end when editors and clients change a technical term for an apparent near synonym because they don't understand the nuance. It makes the sentence nonsensical and makes me look as though I don't know what I'm talking about.
> * Nested parentheses. (In theory, you could use any level needed (provided that they make sense), but in practice, they're scoffed at.) It is similar with quotes, for the same reasons: limited readability - although here you can at least juggle with single, double and French quotes, depending on the language and style guide used.
Any level of nested parenthesis is fine (is what I think at least (as someone who's written a bit of Lisp of Lisp (or Racket and Clojure specifically) (because you get kinda used to it (when in a way they just become invisible (or unnoticeable))))). But nested quotations is also an issue with backtick (`) when doing command substitution in the shell, and we have to resort to $() to fix it. There's not really a $()-like syntax for written English though.
Parsing nested parens requires stack, which humans are vary bad at handling. So writing in this style will be harder to read compared to linear style that people are used to. There are topics inherently nonlinear, but they are often linearized or directly drawn in 2d space.
They do, but there's a limit to how much recursive embedding the average reader can cope with, especially if the writer embeds a lot of modifying clauses in the middle of the main clause so the reader is left waiting for information they need to make sense of the sentence as a whole.
Absolutely agree. It's probably the biggest disconnect I feel between how ideas are structured in my head and how to best communicate them in written format.
Parentheticals in English sit in this sort of midpoint between a modifying clause for necessary elaboration and a footnote/end-note for optional detail, and lots of people including me use parentheses where "inlining" the parentheses or moving them to a footnote would be more appropriate. That's in addition to conventional uses of parentheses, like to expand abbreviations.
Regarding repetitons: the aversion to repeated words can create some amusingly inelegant sentences. These have become known as "knobbly monsters", after a particularly egregious example where a writer needed a synonym for "alligators". British tabloids elevated the practice to self-parody, and they are prominent among the examples recorded by @knobblymonsters: https://twitter.com/knobblymonsters .
I feel the same way, but I think programmers should hold their feelings and just pick up an APA, MLA or Chicago style guide or whatever the equivalent is if you're writing in British English and embrace the rules. Or if you're publishing, let an editor fix your stuff.
Every effort to make a logically consistent "engineered" language has so far failed by any reasonable measure, notably, Esperanto. Others have tried and had even less success than Esperanto. For things to even change in language usage there really has to be a pain point or some kind of trauma or isolation. Mere aspiration for aesthetics or logical consistency isn't enough. How did the American English come to be anyway? A bunch of people got on boats and went to a remote wild continent and stayed there. Forever.
My newspaper will shorten "United States" to "U.S.", and not add an extra period at the end of a sentence. (Not sure if the spaces are different widths.) When the next word would naturally start with a capital letter it can be difficult to tell whether the sentence ends after the abbreviation, sometimes making for garden-path sentences.
>> There have been some rumblings inside the U.S. Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer said in an interview...
Though I am a programmer, so maybe it is just us...
Pascal is fully self-consistent here: in it, semicolon is a statement separator, not a statement terminator. Since the statement before "end" is the last one in the block, there's no statement to separate it from with a trailing semicolon, and so it's a syntax error.
It is redundant because the punctuation is mainly there to indicate pausing or transitioning, but the quotes already indicate a change in voice, which is also a pause/transition.
To that end, I am struggling to think of a time where the punctuation at the end of a quote really mattered. Even exclamations are less necessary, with the support of the surrounding sentance. Consider; they screamed "stop" to get the attention of everyone. And, "stop!" they screamed. In both, the change of voice to the quoted word is about the same.
Yes; so the period inside the quotes is redundant, and that one should be removed.
The outside sentence can continue after the quote; the terminating period outside of the quote is necessary if the sentence is ending there.
We know that the quote has ended with the closing quote, and so we can agree on the convention that there is an implied period there, if the quoted material is a complete clause with subject and verb. If it needs some other punctuation like a question mark, then that is explicit.
> He asked me "what time is it?".
The ? ends the question, the . ends the sentence that contains the embedded question.
The enclosing sentence can continue:
> He asked me "what time is it?" but hurriedly walked away as I glanced at my watch.
Now you positively, definitely cannot remove the period after "watch". Why would you remove it if the words "but ... watch" are deleted?
This stuff is simply too important to leave in the hands of people who have never written a compiler.
Apologies on the long delay. I forgot I had posted. :(
I meant my point mostly tongue in cheek. Redundancy is not necessarily bad.
I do have trouble reading your sentence, though. The change of voice in a declarative sentence to interrogative without a stop, is kind of jarring. In that one, I'd leave off the quote and question mark, I think.
That all said, I think I mainly agree that it is all guidelines and mostly driven by reasons we no longer remember or care about. The rule I remember hearing was that the smaller character of the period was preferred inside the larger character, as the period was prone to break if done in the other way.
Floatingatoll said "It's not futile to reconsider conventions". This shows that's not a complete sentence, suggesting that you added a caveat or other clause.
Also, your preceding paragraph highlights another issue: what if the sentence being quoted has different punctuation than the sentence it's placed in? You wrote a sentence that should end in a question mark, but the quote should end with a period.
>If a quote is incomplete and a meaningful part is omitted there are other typographical conventions to indicate that, like a double period .. for example
Yes, but what I'm talking about is the reverse situation. How would you know whether or not the quoting (outer) sentence is complete? You cannot logically infer that from the quoted (inner) sentence, which is why I'm saying that the second period is not redudant.
you would assume its complete in the absence of a double period. For instance, he said "some random shit". The quote in the previous sentence is a complete one. But then he said " some other ..". An incomplete quote. I personally think we should include the full stop though as it conveys more information and is less cognitive overhead, "it's obviously not redundant.". Even considering that we tend to treat punctuation as breaking/pausing I still think its appropriate as the quote ended AND its containing sentence.
In that case, not capitalizing the word immediately following the quote will work as an indicator that the period is not part of the parent. This doesn't work in the case that the word following is a proper noun. But that's an edge case on something that doesn't really matter.
I agree that maintaining punctuation of the quote is important for context. But outside of the quote, it practically never matters if there is a period or not after the quote. The reader may choose.
> He looks up, "This is it." Bob says, gazing at the sky.
Did you really say, "I tend to agree with the author?"
See the problem there? The quoted sentence is not a question, but the outer sentence is; why, then, is the question mark inside the quotation marks? Double punctuation would solve that ambiguity, and would not be redundant.
Alternatively, and I'm not sure which is correct, if the question mark is outside the quotation marks, was the quote a complete sentence?
The structure of the whole looks incomplete and unbalanced without the second full-stop, which I find ugly. I guess that I care more about logical structure (or my idea of logical structure), than typographical utility.
> Dr Johnson kicked a large rock and said, as his foot rebounded, “I refute it thus.”.
Well, I don't really like that: it just doesn't look nice to me. I would suggest one of the following:
Dr Johnson kicked a large rock and said, as his foot rebounded, “I refute it thus”.
You've chosen not to quote the full stop. There's no law that says you have to include everything in the quotation, right?
Dr Johnson kicked a large rock and said, as his foot rebounded: “I refute it thus.”
This also works if the quoted sentence ends with a question or exclamation mark.
It's a shame that punctuation of human languages can't be logical, but it seems that we're stuck with inconsistent requirements and messy compromises. Cases like the following really confuse and annoy me:
“On the other hand[,]”[,] she said, “we could wait till dark[.]”[.]
(Should that depend on whether the original spoken sentence would, if written, contain a comma after "hand"?)
But what would you do if Dr Johnson was surprised, and you yourself were shouting, i.e.:
Dr Johnson kicked a large rock and said, as his foot rebounded: “I refute it thus?”!
AFAICS, the only way to render this faithfully is the way I just did. In other words, you really do need the punctuation both of the outer sentence and the inner sentence. By extension, the only logical approach for the original sentence would be:
Dr Johnson kicked a large rock and said, as his foot rebounded: “I refute it thus.”.
On a different note, might I use this moment to complain about American books not closing quotations, if they continue on onto a new paragraph, and then opening them again? I.e.:
The quotation thing is irritating if you treat them like matched parentheses, but if you allow the opening and closing quotes to have different meanings, there is a logical interpretation. The opening quote is required syntax for the beginning of any quoted paragraph, so that the reader is reminded that we're still in an extended quote. The closing quote means "this person is finished speaking, and the next quote may be assumed to be a different person." The advantage is the streamlining of longer exchanges:
John spoke to Paul. John said: "I have two things to say.
"One of the things is this."
"What's the other?"
"The other thing is this."
Even in the purest programming languages, we're happy to design special-case idioms that sacrifice perfect orthogonality for better human factors, provided there's an unambiguous parse. Scheme provides (define <identifier> <expression>) - utterly elementary. Yet defining functions by binding identifiers to anonymous lambdas is so annoying that an unneccesary and inconsistent second syntax is provided, (define (<identifier <args...>) <expression>).
Eh? Standard American and British usage is the same with regard to quotes that span multiple paragraphs. Given that it's understood that speakers can alternate without each quote being attributed, e.g.:
Bob said: "Any opinion on this, John?"
John said: "I have two things to say."
"What are they?"
"One of these things is this.
"The other thing is this."
– how would you punctuate that? If you close each paragraph with a quote, then there's no way to tell who's speaking except to label each paragraph:
Bob said: "Any opinion on this, John?"
John said: "I have two things to say."
Bob asked: "What are they?"
John answered: "One of these things is this."
John continued: "The other thing is this."
And if you don't open each quoted paragraph with a quote, it's very hard to tell which paragraphs are quoted:
I guess that's what XML namespaces were supposed to allow.
Reality seemed to involve eldritch abominations like one system I encountered that had entire Base64 encoded XML documents embedded as attribute values in a higher level document and then this approach applied recursively....
Edit: Of course, this wasn't XMLs fault - but for some reason a lot of XML used in the "enterprise" world seemed to be primarily designed to eat the soul of whoever gazed upon it.
I see what you mean, but the first appears to be a PHP bug (unless I am misreading?).
The second, appears to be a tool for parsing a json blob which has been escaped and encoded as a simple string inside another json blob. That's certainly an interesting problem, and one that is likely to come up in a sufficiently complicated world - however it's not an issue with parsing JSON. It's an issue with parsing /any/ data structure or language that may contain strings and as such seems unavoidable.
> It's an issue with parsing /any/ data structure or language that may contain strings and as such seems unavoidable.
Except for a data format which would allow embedding data in a nested fashion without altering it in any way. For example:
some_object_field: "some value"
and_sub_fields: "with values"
embedded_as_strings: "without transforming the structure"
which_both: "JSON and XML"
have_somewhat: "failed to do"
#""" control sequences should also be valid in the body, as long as there is proper indentation, a la Python
# which could then be simply stripped for display, for example, based on the first """ having N indentation
# then it would follow that the rest of the data entries have N+TAB_WIDTH, which could be simply stripped
# also, processing the beginning of every line would be less expensive than iterating through the entire line in search of escaped \n or anything of the sort
As a consequence, the amount of parsing and processing that you need to do is really bad for performance. Of course, there are formats like YAML and TOML that go in the opposite direction - they try to cover all use cases and end up being overcomplicated.
While we're on the topic, all the journals I'm familiar with require punctuation like full stops (aka periods) to be included in displaystyle maths expressions. There is a some logical justification for this, but it looks awful, and can be downright confusing depending on the sort of notation employed. It particularly irks me to see a spare comma tagged on to the end of a tensor calculus expression, that's supposed to be understood in the context of the surrounding prose, rather than the adjecant mathematical expression.
This is what I do as well. The article says it's "redundant and ugly" but I don't think it's redundant at all--it's unambiguous that "I refute it thus." is a full sentence quote that happens to come at the end of a sentence. It's consistent and simple, as opposed to a special rule that says you can elide the outer `.` if (1) the quote ends in a `.` and (2) the quote is the final element of a sentence.
I feel the period inside quotes is redundant. The last quotation mark can signal both: end of quote and end of sentence within the quote. Though it gets complicated when there are multiple sentences within the quote.
> Dr Johnson kicked a large rock and said, as his foot rebounded, “I refute it thus. I refute it thus”.
Same. It is like matching brackets. Two sentence ends, one quoted and one quoting, so two full-stops. And like putting exclamation/question/interrobang/other marks in the right place depending on who is using them (quoter, quotee, or both).
Of course you can shorten your quote by one character and leave out the inner stop, and I'd say that was equally valid. I would tend to do that unless I want to make it absolutely clear that what I was quoting wasn't a run-on sentence that continued after that point.
Just don't put a ended sentence at the end of something that is not yet a finished utterance.
It's always possible to make a full sentence quotation after a colon, possibly using indentation:
With just enough of learning to misquote.
— Lord Byron
This can be even more explicit:
“One whom it is easier to hate, but still easier to quote.”
— Alexander Pope
Or you can also opt for inner quotation lightly altering the typography, like “quotation is the highest compliment you can pay to an author”, which is actually an excerpt from the wider quotation:
“Quotation is the highest compliment you can pay to an author. Perhaps the next highest is, when a writer of any kind is so considerable that you go to the labor and pains of endeavoring to refute him before the public, the very doing of which is an incidental admission of his talent and power.”
yep, I do mention this approach in a footnote, though it looks kinda awkward to me. maybe just because I’m not used to it. it’s definitely not necessary for reading aloud, where it’s enough to know that there’s a punctuation there. but when reading silently it does make more sense.
No, because you will still need to apply a special case to stop the recursion of putting a period after a period forever. If a sentence ends in a period then what ends the expression that contains the sentence and the period? Answer: another period because you can think of that expression as a sentence too. So you need a special case that says if there are going to be two periods next to each other then terminate the recursion. Similarly your .". asinine suggestion fails since it implicitly invokes a special rule, but is worse than the elegant special rule of just having one period.
Exactly, both approaches in the article are wrong, and this is the only way to write the sentence correctly. Each sentence needs to end in a punctuation mark, regardless of whether it's between quotes or not.
> I think it’s weird that a punctuation mark inside a quote can end the sentence that contains the quote.
It doesn't. The end quote with a period inside it ends the sentence.
> I’d argue like this: in the above case there are two sentences
There aren't. English doesn't nest or overlap sentences. Ever. Therr are plenty of ways in which English combines multiple units which each could otherwise be their own sentences into more complex sentences, but none of them involve having something which remains a sentence inside a longer sentence.
> The end quote with a period inside it ends the sentence.
What a weird interpretation. Two characters shouldn't be needed to end a sentence, only a period can end a sentence. It'd be a lot easier to postulate the period inside ends the sentence and the quotation mark ends the quote that just ran outside the end of the sentence by one character.
Hmm. This feels a bit wrong to me. Double period makes longer pause, and wedged between a quote it doesn’t flow well:
.”. Feels like a visual stutter.
Either .” or “. are more final and visually stable.
I’d argue depending on whether the pause affected by the period is important to the quote itself, put it in the quote. Then again, a block-quotation is probably more suitable for that scenario. Personally, for basic quotes in prose I’d put the period on the outside of quote because that directs readers to pause after the quote ends, not before.
This rubs me wrong in all the ways and is aesthetically jarring as all hell to me.
If I’m reading a book or essay and I come across this type of punctuation, it actually actively removes me from my flow of reading and causes me to stop for a moment and lose immersion - same with obvious spelling and grammatical errors.
It’s amazing how dependent our reading immersion is on proper grammar, spelling and punctuation.
I prefer to think it is what you are accustomed to, or habituated to.
From these comments a number of people including me, prefer to use the .”. form because we find that more aesthetically pleasing. I had discovered the .”. form myself because I play with my punctuation (and words and grammar), and until this discussion I hadn’t noticed others use .”.*.
I presume other other programmers play with syntax and punctuation too.
* Note I have italicised .”. and if you zoom on an iPad the full stops [US periods] change from squares to rhombusы.
Yes, that's better and more logical, because it also handles the case where the final punctuation of the outer sentence and quoted sentence is different, like when Dr. Johnson asked "I refute it thus?"!
Good question! Perhaps one of the most important questions regarding writing...
I would argue clarity and elegance don't oppose one another; elegance means being as clear as possible without being clumsy or heavy handed, and without insulting your reader's intelligence. Said reader is not a machine, they're supposed to be fluent in the language.
We should reduce ambiguity as much as possible, but no more than that. Adding signs where no ambiguity remains only worsens the signal to noise ratio.
I used to love to write. That all ended in college, with English Instructors. I wasen't the only student either.
There was so much emphasis on grammar, interesting writers just seemed to sound all alike. I enjoyed some of the papers that were read aloud the first few weeks. By the end of the courses, the papers were technically correct, but boring, and lacked imagination. I could see the enthusiasm drain from the students faces with every paper covered in red Sharpie corrections.
I had one teacher that used to down grade me for not writing out numbers 1-10, and only using numbers for 11 on. I still don't know what's right, or care anymore.
Hackers tend to use quotes as balanced delimiters like parentheses, much to the dismay of American editors. Thus, if “Jim is going” is a phrase, and so are “Bill runs” and “Spock groks”, then hackers generally prefer to write: “Jim is going”, “Bill runs”, and “Spock groks”. This is incorrect according to standard American usage (which would put the continuation commas and the final period inside the string quotes); however, it is counter-intuitive to hackers to mutilate literal strings with characters that don't belong in them. Given the sorts of examples that can come up in discussions of programming, American-style quoting can even be grossly misleading. When communicating command lines or small pieces of code, extra characters can be a real pain in the neck.
I've always written it in "British style" myself because that's what we do in Dutch and I never considered there might be another way to do things, and it wasn't until someone "corrected" me just a few years ago that I even noticed the "American style" exists, in spite of having read countless books and articles which use it. Even now, when reading something I don't really notice unless I pay attention to it.
Based on this, I think it doesn't really matter, either in aesthetics or clarity.
Most non-native speakers don't really use "British" or "American" English anyway, but rather a mixture of both, not infrequently unaware that a particular word or phrase belongs to one or the other variant. My English girlfriend didn't know what "parenthesis" are for example; turns out it's very much an American thing – I had no idea – and it's brackets in British English apparently. There's been a few other confusions like this, and I still can't remember if "lift" is the American and "elevator" the British or vice-versa.
Okay, if the word your girlfriend uses for "parenthesis" is "brackets" then what word does she use for what Americans call "brackets"? (Notice I use the British quotation style for interrogative sentences even though I'm American, it just makes sense). And do they use a different word for what Americans call a "brace"?
As an aside, being an old C/C++ developer I still remember being taken aback upon hearing someone pronounce #define has "hash define." (But I use the American style for declarative sentences!) I've always heard it pronounced "pound define" going back for decades.
It's "square brackets" for [ and ]. It's confusing the same word means something subtly different; you have the same with "chips" (French fries in the US, crisps are used for US chips, in New Zealand chips is used for both though which is even more confusing) or "pepper" (bell pepper in the UK, chilli pepper in the US).
I still see it in some publications on occasion, but it's rare. I often write it as "coöperate" myself as well; it clarifies that the ö starts a new syllable and that it's "co-operate" rather than "coo-perate" with a single long o sound: it's just something you need to know. I find it regrettable that this has fallen out of favour, and especially with English becoming the de-facto world language I think there's some value in making the spelling and pronunciation closer when possible.
The former must be correct, since the quote was not a question, and turning it into one would not be a fair quotation. Why should its status as a question change where we put the end of sentence marker?
The same argument applies to the period, since the quoted phrase may not have included one.
It's not a "used to" thing. The British style introduces white space gaps that don't look good. It's like ending a sentence with a space .
> The former must be correct
IMHO, "correctness" in the sense of "here's exact the character string that occurred in that other document, and anything else is wrong," is kind of a programmer POV. A looser sense of correctness is perfectly fine.
> The British style introduces white space gaps that don't look good.
Sure they do, to me. The comma you inserted between the end of the quote and the closing quotation mark looks bad to me, because I have a strong expectation of the opposite. That esthetic feeling you have is how 'used to' manifests.
Also the US spelling of 'esthetic' is ugly to those expecting 'aesthetic'. I'm sure the British spelling looks pretentious to Americans.
“Aesthetic” is widely used in the US as well. When I (a US person) see “esthetic” used in this way, it looks like a mistake to me—I associate that spelling with the cosmetics/beauty industry (i.e., "estheticians").
It makes some sense if you consider it a representation of the way you'd speak/read the sentence. If you read that sentence out loud, regardless of where you put the question mark you'll have to intone the quote as if the quote was a question, due to its context. So it functions "better" as a reading hint. (Though I'd also prefer to have the punctuation outside the quote.)
Unlike periods and commas, putting question marks and exclamation marks inside the quotation when they are not part of the quote is against AP, APA, Chicago, and MLA style specifications... Granted, I don't know if technical writing typically adheres to some other style, but shoving a question mark inside a quote it isn't part of is definitely not typical of American styles in general.
Correct, but that just shows why the American style is so confusing. That we have to have an exception for more meaningful punctuation marks just serves to confuse, and emphasizes just how bad the default is.
I didn't even realize that periods were an exception. (as an American) I've always preserved the original quote for all three forms of punctuation, and put a sentence-ender only if there isn't one inside the quote. I'd bet most americans do the same, style guides be damned. IMO, it's also totally crazy to export a punctuation mark out of the quote always.
True, you really only have to worry about it if you're writing or editing for a teacher or publisher who wants you to adhere to some specific style. The real annoying thing for me (as an American) was having different teachers teach different things in school. (Same with double spaces between sentences in typing and the oxford comma.) At least when the teacher used a style guide, there was a source of consistency I could turn to, even if I disagreed with them.
I felt like doing so changed the meaning of the quote, and it felt like a misrepresentation... I ended up rewording the sentence so it wouldn’t end with the quotation, and have just actively avoided ending sentences in quotes ever since.
I appreciate the skill involved in avoiding ambiguity. The hard part is knowing the unknown unknowns, ya know? I read both sentences the same way and can't really fathom why someone else wouldn't! (Of course, I don't have the context of the original quote here, so maybe that comes into play... but I don't know, and probably shouldn't have to!)
> Why did Jake believe the AI was "going to kill us all?"
This reads, to me, like Jake's quoted sentence was originally a question. If the original sentence was an assertion or a statement, then you're right this fundamentally changes the meaning and strength of Jake's sentence.
Wow, I can't believe how much I now realize I want this to be the default. This whole situation feels like the result of a lack of computers unable to automatically place these "ligatures" and I've never considered how we should've ditched this restriction years ago.
As I recall, this historically was the standard. In handwriting, the ligature could be and was placed naturally. In professional printing with moveable type, the ligature could be included in the typeset. Only once typewriters were invented and couldn't spare a key for every ligature did the sequential style appear and the British and American styles diverge.
This seems like it ought to be possible on a typewriter -- or at least, one with a true backspace. I'm not sure if the backspace was an advanced/late feature, though. It seems pretty simple, but mechanical parts are pretty fiddly I guess.
There's no real ligature for those, but those characters don't really take up any unnecessary whitespace. Combining low and high punctuation marks makes more sense. You could try to turn "! into a well-kerned '!', with he quotation marks very close to the exclamation point, but for the question mark such a system would probably not work.
That said, perhaps there's something to be found in other languages. Some quote with «quote», some with “quote”, others with „quote“, and there's many other variations. I can see how ligatures can work with constructions such as ¿question? can have the quotation makes placed closer in the beginning of the question marks, especially with the slow change from the angled brackets to the English quotation marks in some Spanish speaking countries.
I think, given that this is just some guy’s opinion (it’s not like this is someone who has a job as a professional copyeditor or publisher of a respected style guide), the only real takeaway most people should take from this is:
There are various conventions you can adopt around quoted punctuation
You, as an individual writer of English prose, have the option of adopting a style you prefer
It’s okay for reasonable people to disagree about that
Basically, all interpunction characters have started as "some guy's opinion".
All graphemes for the characters, too.
I know the "rules", but I've been also intentionally writing it in what I refer to as "functional style", e.g.:
Greg's reaction was "But what of the otters?!".
Mary's "Nobody cares about otters!" was received with a stunned shock.
Joseph calmly said "I'm ambivalent.".
But Ophelia just "didn't care".
After hearing about the whole ordeal, Mary's brother was livid: "«Nobody cares about otters!»?! She's a bloody otterologist!"... and then he visibly shook, and his face blanked as he slowly collapsed into his armchair, looking broken, repeatingly mumbling to himself "Illogical... illogical...".
First three are verbatim restated statements; fourth is a partial and/or summary statement (no quoted punctuation); fifth is a very complex example (and a long [but fully functional!] sentence.
We also need light-, mid-, heavy-strength commas. :p
Another stupid detail like this that immediately tells you that text is from America is the capitalisation of every word in a title. Compare the front page of the NY Times with the front pages from any other English speaking country and you see the contrast. I didn't check, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Canadians go both ways at random ;-)
It's less logical even than that. It's almost every word. On the NYT homepage right now, for example, one story is "Justice Dept. Asks Judge to Block Texas From Enforcing Abortion Law". So "From" is capitalised but "to" isn't.
Weirdly, scrolling down the page, the technology section appears to go its own way on capitalisation rules: "Apple's new iPhone 13 is better, but not by much." is followed by "Apple Issues Emergency Updates to Close a Spyware Flaw".
It's called title case, and it's not determined by the length of a word but by whether or not a word is minor. The rules defining minor words vary slightly between styles, but they're usually prepositions and articles.
> Lowercase only minor words that are three letters or fewer in a title or heading (except the first word in a title or subtitle or the first word after a colon, em dash, or end punctuation in a heading)
Book titles in British English tend to be title case (capitalise most words, apart from "a", "the", etc), but newspaper headlines are usually sentence case apart from tabloid front pages, which are all caps and have their own language ("It's the Sun wot won it", for example).
The UK practise is for initialisms to be capiitalised and acronyms, which are prounced rather than spelled out, to have an initial capital (when rerfering to a proper noun) but lower-cased following.
So "Nasa", but "FBI".
There's some adoption of this in US English, though typically for words which have fallen into normal use and don't identify specific organisations or entities: scuba, radar, sonar, laser.
The UK style isn't uniform in all cases, particularly where initialism are pronouced with a mix of spelled-out letters and pronounced terms. So "HIV", but "Aids" (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/dec/01/through-posi...). I believe much US military usage falls under this pattern, as with USAMRID or USCENTCOM. In the latter case, The Guardian chooses the entirely consistent ... "USCentcom".
I was typing out an explanation/justification to the effect that when speaking aloud, the punctuation at the end of the sentence is 'heard' in the last word, even if the word is quoted. We insert a pause before the start of the quote to indicate it was direct, but there isn't a way of indicating whether, say, a question mark belongs inside or outside the quotation.
But then I sounded out some examples in my head and realised it would be totally obvious. The inflection of the question is apparent from the beginning of the fragment (¿), not just from the inflection on the last word. I knew this already, of course, but I didn't really grok it, I guess because of the limitations of how we write out punctuation in English.
The intonation that people think of as characterizing questions is actually specific to yes/no questions. It can be the only feature that marks the sentence as interrogative: "You know him?" is a valid sentence, and it is distinct from the indicative "You know him."
There are also what I think of as "question word" questions, and you might think of as "fill in the blank" questions: "Why are you here?"
These do not necessarily have the intonation that applies to yes/no questions. Like yes/no questions, they are characterized by subject-auxiliary inversion (the word order constraint you mention), and also like yes/no questions, that inversion is not guaranteed to be present in a question of this type: "Who sent you?"
(Note that inversion is possible for "You know him?" ("Do you know him?") and impossible for "Who sent you?"; these are different phenomena.)
I would argue that the yes/no question is primarily marked by intonation and the question-word question is primarily marked by the presence of a question word. Word order is affected in both cases, but not the primary indicator of what's going on. (Compare "He said what to the king?" - again, inversion is possible here ("What did he say to the king?"), but not required. In this case, the inverted version of the question is unmarked (normal), and the uninverted version suggests that the speaker wishes to place a special emphasis on something.)
Sentences of the form <some_statement>? with rising intonation are common and mean roughly <some_statement>, right? or <some_statement>, yes? There's no marker other than the intonation when spoken or the question mark when written to indicate that it's a question.
Note that em (current point size) and en (½ em) spaces are both wider than the regular space character (typically ¼ em). An espace fine insécable (narrow no-break space) is even smaller, usually as small as a Unicode thin space (⅕ or ⅙ em): https://jkorpela.fi/chars/spaces.html
Word, in French mode, inserts regular no-break spaces where narrow no-break spaces would be appropriate. I find this style rather irritating, but then again, I don’t read nearly enough French to get accustomed to it.
Ah, you're right, my translation of espace fine to En was incorrect, thanks for the correction.
An intriguing problem in typography is the patterns that spaces can form between words on different lines (called rivers); in traditional typography it is checked for but I don't know of any rendering engine that would do that automatically (in a browser, or on an e-reader for example).
I believe that both TeX (Knuth-Plass Line Breaking Algorithm) and InDesign (paragraph composer – expired US Patent 6,510,441) do this, so there is at least one open-source implementation that could be used as a starting point. Unfortunately though, the awareness for good and bad typography seems to be so low that this is probably not a priority for browser and e-reader vendors. It would be wonderful to have this as part of WeasyPrint or something similar.
On the other hand, it was the English who used to have some extra space between sentences compared to the space between words. This is still the default in LaTeX, but I believe everyone turns it off by using the \frenchspacing command in the preamble.
Also German has its own verbs for
"for the insertion of inappropriate spaces before a punctuation mark." and "for the insertion of inappropriate spaces after a punctuation mark." which are often used in a derogatory manner in connection with people who do it wrongly.
I think the example sentence contains the worst corner-case of such a system. In general, the . at the end of sentence is the least necessary punctuation mark, and quotations of neutral statements should just always omit it.
For example, "this is how a neutral sentence should look like", I would say. I don't think "they saw a vase." looks good even in the middle of a sentence. However, "do I have a question?", or "I am exclaiming something!" do need their punctuation to make sense. Now, it's more ugly when you finish a neutral sentence a quote like "I am surprised!".
Of course, there will be cases, especially in literature, where the . will actually add something to the emphasis of a quote. For example, "I have said it all." could be used to emphasize the period itself - but in those cases, jarring punctuation like `.".` or `.",` would actually help to emphasize the importance of the period.
> For example, "I have said it all." could be used to emphasize the period itself - but in those cases, jarring punctuation like `.".` or `.",` would actually help to emphasize the importance of the period.
Even there, doing it like you did and putting the quoted sentence in the middle, not at the end, of the outer one looks about a gazillion times better
I genuinely love how American, Australian, and British, English all differ in these subtle ways. I think another example that gets me is:
`e.g.` vs `e.g.,`
MS Word favours the `e.g.,` which I never see in Australian English.
American here. Placing punctuation in a quote ending a sentence is how English Composition was taught to me in grade school and in college. I took to Eng Comp early on and had at least one class in the subject from 9th grade in 1993 through my final year of college in 2003.
IMHO this is right up there with tabs vs spaces. People are going to have very different takes on what looks aesthetically pleasing based on viewing repetition and training. There is no right answer, since both are widely accepted, only personal preference.
FWIW, as another anecdatum from an American, I was always taught the "British style" was the correct way, and the "American style" was incorrect. They were never referred to as "British" or "American" though, just "correct" and "incorrect".
I prefer the "British" style, FWIW. Maybe it's just what I was taught, but I have encountered arguments for the other way periodically (causing me to have to check), and I always preferred the way I learned for the reasons in the article.
the "british" style also introduces an ambiguity. Did the original quote contain the puncutation, or does it derive from the outside context?
It's pretty clear to me that the correct method (on the grounds of respecting source material) is: "punctuation inside, if it comes from the source, punctuation outside if it's from the outside context".
And there are times when quotes aren't even direct quotes, they could be scare quotes. Why the hell would you ever put punctuation inside of a scare quote? I don't think any american would do this.
Dough is pronounced like "doe." -- TERRIBLE. Stab my eyes out.
I'm going to be entirely honest, this seems like a complete waste of time for everyone involved. The point of writing is to communicate, and I don't see how the position of punctuation in relation to quotation marks affects the understanding of the communication to the reader. Just pick one and stick with it.
I tried to implement some linting rules for quotation mark and punctuation once. Took me way too much time and effort. It's mostly trial and error but good enough I guess to highlight the most blatant abuses.
The reason this problem exists is because computers and font libraries don't have all the characters we need. The point or comma should be at the same place as the quotes, under them, not before or after.
And this is why more simply, the quotation mark can imply the period;
similarly, the comma can be inherited by the formulation and implied (there is no sacrifice in '«That's too bad», John said, «but you can recover»' for '«That's too bad, but you can recover»' - the break is in the formulation and the explicit comma is redundant).
If one is going to look to an authority in English, I think there's none better than Orwell. There are those of the opinion, however, that with regard to "outright barbary" the ship has long since sailed.
I was taught the American way (as I live in the US), but immediately rejected it (even at a young age) and did it the British way, though I had no idea that's what it was called. Besides the week or so when teachers were covering that in their syllabus, nobody ever complained or noted it at all :)
It's all fun and games until you try to copy the "66 and 99"-style quotes from one place to another, or your ”helpful“ text editor automagically makes a mess of them. It's a pity no good ``asymmetric'' style ever really took off in English. I'm particularly fond of the French «chevrons», and relatedly, ¡Spanish exclamations!
⸘Why has not yet the opening interrobang received similarly wide adoption‽
My thought is that punctuation "terminates" a sentence, and so the mark that's further to the right is "terminated" later, therefore it more represents the overall sentiment. The left punctuation mark is like a modifier; it's an adjective before a noun.
"" is a simplification that fits well in keyboard usage and ASCII, but not always real language practices. In my mother tongue we use a „quote”. Our characters in books speak starting from new line with a dash. But it's a different dash from simple minus sign we tend to use online, for simplicity. It's hard to actually use that on the Internet, but in books it's still the way.
You're right. I used to programming quotes so much that every variation from it makes a pain. Especially mentioned below the automatic quote replacement by some text editor. Which does not make sense for me, when I paste a code snippet.
Another pain is when I see such code snippets on the web.
For the clarity, it's not only the US quotes I have a problem with. Other languages have also their corks:
I thought you made another mistake here, but it turns out it's just my font that is broken. For anyone else who might have this problem: The closing marks are supposed to go from bottom left to top right, whereas they are displayed going from top left to bottom right :(
I could say the same about punctuation spacing. For some reason, I see this mistake a lot in some places like Quora (which is popular in India): "Putting the space before punctuation ,like this .It drives me nuts .How could anyone ever think that is correct ?"
Also, French conventions like putting the dollar sign after the amount (123$), or spaces in between all punctuation, like you used in your first sentence.
The only reason the "American style" exists is a technical workaround: It was easier to damage the expensive lead type used in print shops a century ago if the thin period character was used on the end of the line, rather than the thicker, sturdier quotation mark, so they were swapped as a cost-saving measure.
None of this has been relevant for many decades, and people have forgotten the reason for this rule. It was never correct to do, it was a choice to do it the wrong way around out of convenience.
I thought there was a generally accepted way of signaling that a quote is incomplete - by using [...]. For example:
"[...] the first game was better, but not in a good way"
There's no need to use the full stop inside the quote to show that the sentence had ended. That can be the default, because most time it doesn't matter, but in the cases where it is relevant to show that there's content after, then why not:
I switch between the american style for persuasion, and the british style for precision. Am also Canadian, so a metanational approach is normal here. I also keep copies of the Chicago Manual and Strunk & White, which are useful for knowing which rules to break. Ain't never had much of a problem, consequently.
This is true. You can find the 'American style' in the UK occasionally, especially in fiction – it's not exceptionally rare.
But regardless, the styles have come to be known as 'American' and 'British' because they generally are preferred in American and British English respectively, even if it's not absolute: Americans tend to be taught US style, and Brits tend to be taught British style.
For some reason, in school in Britain in the 1980s, we were taught rather religiously to always end anything inside speech marks with a comma. I'm not sure where this style comes from, but it confused me terribly and took me years to correct.
In prose, use month names (i.e. 1st Jan 1979, or Jan 1st 1970). Where numbers must be used for some reason use four-digit-year first if you can. If you can't use the dictated standard or, if there isn't one (raising the obvious question of why that would be), go with the form that will be familiar to most of your readers.
In other words, as with all things, prefer unambiguous forms but consider and respect your audience.
How do British people pronounce the date that they write as 15 September, 2021? Americans write the date the same way we pronounce it (September 15), but this leads to the unfortunate mm/dd/yy style of abreviation.
The linked article correctly uses "British" to denote the style of punctuation, I do not understand why OP decided to use "English" which implies that people in Scotland and Northern Ireland might punctuate differently.
It's best not to though, unless you want to annoy people from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Most English people will consider it a sign of ignorance too. Beyond that, the "colloquial" use is simply incorrect.
>Beyond that, the "colloquial" use is simply incorrect.
Doesn't matter, language follows use, not etymology or geography. If a term has been established as something (in actual use) then it will be used, doesn't matter if it's not technically correct (same way "Indians" was used for centuries for Native Americans, and only fell out of use because of political concerns, not because it was also obviously incorrect and based on a misunderstanding of a whole continent).
Agree with the post; interestingly, in grade school (here in America) I was actually taught both ways depending on the teacher's preference / belief (assuming we were not writing MLA research papers)... this mostly led to perpetual confusion, so we'd often just put the period directly under the quotation. (Of course, couldn't do that for typed assignments.) I remember one of my English teachers accepting both ways because she could never keep it straight herself.
I’m not aware of the punctuation mark going outside the quotation being, “British style,” and I’m struggling to find other references to it being so. It’s certainly not what is done in most British typography.
Putting the punctuation mark inside the quotation marks has been a thing ever since printing, and I always thought it was done to avoid have an isolated full stop on a printing plate, which could be damaged relatively easily., but this may be a retroactive justification.
I am American and can't help but wonder if this is a subtle British joke. This is just poor grammar based on how I was taught, so perhaps some Brits think it's cheeky to call it "American Style", like an American calling a dull stick a "British toothbrush". If so, well played. If not, no harm done, just don't use "American Style".
Not a joke. I thought the article was going to be about using single quotes vs double quotes. This article mentions that difference as being a reason typographers would put the punctuation inside vs outside the (double) quotes. https://style.mla.org/punctuation-and-quotation-marks/
This is very emotional because we start when being 6 and as such, for many years, you are exposed to only one way to quote or put spaces around punctuation.
I am French, living in Germany and working in English 50% of the time. It is interesting that it is only after maybe 15 years outside of France that now my feeling for what is the right way in one language matches the rules. For example:
- How do you do?
- Comment allez-vous ?
Notice the space before the question mark in French. For me, now, it feels right for both, for a long time this was not the case.
Learning English I found American quotation style very weird. It would be interesing to know if any nother language do something like this and where this traidition comes from. We certainly do not do this in russian and ukrainian I've learned in school.
Don't expect natural language to logically "make sense". Just don't. It doesn't work by those rules, and trying to force it to do so just leads to seventeenth-century grammarian jackasses and Strunk and White.
Somewhat related — in my experience reading news articles online, it seems like more and more often I’m seeing the period migrate outside parentheses for full sentences. Has anyone else noticed this trend?
As you illustrate by saying "less rules" instead of "fewer rules." (I agree with you: For any language, the less that non-native speakers have to worry about tripping over some finicky rule, the better.)
Prefer the hackerly style of quotation punctuation: the period ends the sentence:
> Dr. Johnson kicked a large rock and said, as his foot rebounded, “I refute it thus”.
This is one big sentence which contains an embedded quote. The period ends that big sentence.
The quote contains a complete sentence. Therefore, arguably, it deserves its own period.
> Dr. Johnson kicked a large rock and said, as his foot rebounded, “I refute it thus.”.
So this matter revolves around the idea that we want only one period, and so the question is which of these two periods do we elide.
I'm arguing that if we are going to elide, the one we should elide is the inner one, because it's of less importance. Eliding the outer one leaves the entire sentence unterminated, whereas the quote is obviously terminated by the closing quote.
(What is the sentence period for? It's for indicating where sentences end, so that the reader doesn't get confused parsing the end of one sentence together with the start of the next one. A closing quote has a solid end indicator already.)
If there are multiple quoted sentences, then those except the last preserve their terminating punctuator:
> Dr. Johnson kicked a large rock and said, as his foot rebounded, “How shall I refute it? Ah, I refute it thus”.
What if the quoted sentence ends in a terminator different from the one of the embedding clause? Then we cannot elide either one:
> Dr. Johnson kicked a large rock and said, as his foot rebounded, “How shall I refute it?”.
Except if the inner one is a period. We can establish the convention that a missing punctuator inside a quote is an implied period (if the quote is obviously a complete clause):
> Did Dr. Johnson really say “I refute it thus”?
Something like that. We should strive, in some halfway rational way, not to leave the overall sentence without terminating punctuation.
(I do not agree that .". has a redundant period. Two different sentences are ending, using their own punctuation marks which are not related, and could potentially be different. I agree that it's ugly. Eliding the inner period is not the same as eliminating it; we are making it implied. Something implied is still semantically there, just not as a visible syntactic token.)
Note that whatever." does not indicate the end of a sentence; it can plausibly continue:
> Dr. Johnson said "I refute it thus." and kicked the rock.
As soon as we have additional words after the quote, we have two periods unless we elide one. In this case, we definitely must not elide the one after "rock". Whereas eliding the quoted one according to the hackerly style leaves a clean result:
> Dr. Johnson said "I refute it thus" and kicked the rock.
Grownups don't worry about this stuff. Just like they don't worry about which programming language style guide to use.
If you're writing for an American audience, use American style. If you're writing for a British audience, use British style. If you're writing a journal article, or for a business, use whatever style everyone else there uses. If you're writing for yourself, use what you like.