Logical Punctuation

As you may have noticed, I am not a language purist. I adopted a lot of American spelling when I went to live there and had to write as part of my job, and I have stuck with it since as the majority of my readers are American. But one thing that really grated on me was American punctuation. If you are going to put something “in quotes”, those quotes should logically relate to the piece of text being quoted, and should not expand to include punctuation that is part of the parent sentence, but not part of the quote. US style insists that, if you something “in quotes,” they should encompass any following punctuation.

See the difference?

I had always thought that what I was doing was a British style of punctuation, but looking at contemporary UK books and newspapers I discovered that they tended to do things the American way, so I changed. Or at least tried to, I’m not very consistent because it irritates me so much.

Now, thanks to Jonathan Strahan on Twitter, I have found this article in Slate, which not only supports my instinct that I was using a UK style, but also argues that it is much more sensible than the American way of doing things. Hooray! Now I can go back to doing quotes my way.


If Anne and Deanna don’t kill me.

And except in Clarkesworld where I need to follow Neil’s house style.

9 thoughts on “Logical Punctuation

  1. I loathe the US style for quotation marks; it meshes badly with the logical and orderly parts of my brain.

    Unlike you, I have no excuse for using a more sensible style.

  2. I’ve just learned that I follow the British style for quotes.
    Wadda-ya-know! As I was brought up and lived in the States until I was in my 30’s and have now lived in Europe – with several long stints in England – for almost 30 years, my poor aging brain creaks its way through both stylist variations. I have both UK and US spell-checks on my computer, as well as French, Italian and Estonian, but … it’s not always easy.

  3. Call this yank a traitor to his (occasionally bent all out of recognition) language, but leaving the punctuation outside just makes *sense*…

    ‘course, then again, my fingers think certain words just need an extra “u”… which to my logical brain makes no sense at all.

    Pity about “house style”; I’ve become of the opinion that objectivity violates the Kantian imperative, and that *transparency* is key… and thus allowing a given writer her own voice, as long as she is *consistent* with it would be a goodness. Besides, people need to get their heads around the idea that other people are different than they are, and that that’s OK…. which I’m well aware is a hot-button issue for yourself. (It is for me, too.)

    To have a favourite style of writing and use it professionally is simply to endeavour to honour one’s origins, and indeed one’s humanity. IMNASHO.

    1. I note that the “house style” for Salon Futura is to allow contributors to use the national style they are most comfortable with. So Karen and I write in American, while Sam and Jonathan write in British. I was chasing an article about a French writer which, had it come in, we would have published in both French and English.

  4. I remember being taught to do it your way when I was at school, and it was reinforced by the various style sheets used by academic publishers. My instinct, on looking at the US version, is that it means something subtly different to the UK one. Which, I guess, is testament to the values that we load onto punctuation.

    1. But if you read the Slate article you’ll see that the original rationale for the US style was aesthetic. There was no intention to change meaning.

  5. I’ve always thought of leaving the punctuation outside the quotes as the “programmer style”, because it’s the norm among US programmers. I had no idea it was considered a British style as well.

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