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Quotations and punctuation marks

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This question has puzzled me for quite a while -- why are you supposed to include punctuation marks within a quote, even if they belong to the sentence as a whole? For example:

John said, "I ate an apple."

Why is it that the period should be included within the quote, rather than outside of it, i.e.:

John said, "I ate an apple".

Some of you have probably already seen me using the latter method, so it's not as if I'm unaware of the 'proper' way of writing things. But it just doesn't make sense to me to include something within a quote when it logically belongs to the sentence as a whole. Why does the rule exist?

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This question has puzzled me for quite a while -- why are you supposed to include punctuation marks within a quote, even if they belong to the sentence as a whole? For example:

John said, "I ate an apple."

Why is it that the period should be included within the quote, rather than outside of it, i.e.:

John said, "I ate an apple".

Thank you for raising this question. My husband, who grew up in United States, and I were confronted with this dilemma for I insist in using the second example that you used.

I grew up in the Philippines where I had my English Grammar classes. Our country followed the British style of grammar. We were taught to use a punctuation mark after a quotation. And I have always followed that logical rule of using a punctuation mark after a quotation. (Click here for a quick reference)

In United States, is it considered grammatically incorrect if you follow the British style of using a punctuation mark after a quotation mark? Will a professor or a teacher mark you down on your paper for using the British style?

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Why is it that the period should be included within the quote, rather than outside of it, i.e.:

John said, "I ate an apple".

Good question. I tend to do the same as the above example.

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John said, "I ate an apple."

Why is it that the period should be included within the quote, rather than outside of it, i.e.:

John said, "I ate an apple".

Darned if I know. I do it because that's the rule.

In sentence-based computer languages, like COBOL, you have to put the punctuation outside the quotes or you get incorrect data and/or syntax errors.

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...the British style of grammar. We were taught to use a punctuation mark after a quotation...

Well that is just absurd. :)

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This gets even worse. It turns out there are some punctuation marks that go inside of a quotation and some that go outside.

Here's what Patricia O'Conner in Woe Is I says.

Trailing periods and commas go inside of the quotation marks. But, semicolons and colons go outside!

Question marks and exclamation points go inside the quotation marks if they're part of the quotation, but outside if they're not. (This seems like what the rule ought to be for all punctuation, to me.)

What about an apostrophe? For instance, what if we want to form the possessive of something that is usually in quotation marks? The apostrophe followed by the s is supposed to go outside of the quotation marks. Her example is:

"The Raven"'s first stanza is the best.

Really! (That is a double-quote followed by a single-quote; on my browser, I cannot tell which is first!) Since this looks so bad, it's not uncommon to use "The Raven's" instead which looks better but is wrong.

I don't know the rationale behind these rules.

I'm wondering more about the British style: do trailing periods, etc, always go outside of quotation marks, or are they treated like American question marks, which go inside if they are part of the quotation, but outside if they are not? If the latter is the answer, I'm probably going to have to say that the British rules make more sense to me :) - unless somebody here knows why the American rule for periods is to always put them inside of the quotation marks.

(But I still prefer the American spelling rules, color and labor versus colour and labour - that extra "u" just doesn't do anything for me :) . And we could debate "aluminum" versus "aluminium" all day.)

Hey, what about emoticons: should they go before or after the punctuation :) ? :)

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I always go outside if it doesnt belong to the quoted part because that makes more sense to me, and I would encourage others to do the same since thats the only way to change the standard convention :)

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One of the most authoritative sources for defining proper English usage is H.W. Fowler's The King's English, which as you might surmise from the title is concerned with British conventions, and that link points to his discussion of quotation marks. Just to extract a bit of what he says,

A question of some importance to writers who trouble themselves about accuracy, though no doubt the average reader is profoundly indifferent, is that of the right order as between quotation marks and stops. Besides the conflict in which we shall again find ourselves with the aesthetic compositor, it is really difficult to arrive at a completely logical system. Before laying down what seems the best attainable, we must warn the reader that it is not the system now in fashion; but there are signs that printers are feeling their way towards better things, and this is an attempt to anticipate what they will ultimately come to.
He, of course, prescribes the rule where the punctuation follows the quotation mark, which apparently breaks from the tradition of Whately's Elements of Rhetoric: Comprising an Analysis of the Laws of Moral Evidence and of Persuasion, with Rules for Argumentative Composition and Elocution.

The rules are primarily established by publishing houses, and serve the aesthetic purposes of that house, which can result in contradictions between publishing houses. In some cases, there is a nearly deductive functional explanation for the existence of a rule (quotations within quotes should use distinctive punctuation) which must be enforced by a seemingly arbitrary convention ("He said 'Yikes!' with a nasal twang" versus 'He said "Yikes!" with a nasal twang'.) One of the most influential style manuals for the US is The Chicago Manual of Style, which follows the punctuation-inside rule. My conjecture is that the convention was established over 200 years ago and gained prominence in the US thanks to authorities like Whately and also John Wilson's A Treatise on English Punctuation, and this was just preserved in the Chicago Manual of Style. In other words, I suspect the US custom resisted a change in convention.

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The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition, sections 5.11, 5.12, and 513 describes both the American system and the British system. The CMS concedes the "logic" (consistency) of the British style, compared to the American style: The only punctuation that belongs within the quotation marks is punctuation in what is being quoted.

Further, the CMS notes that "some American language experts" are now advocating switching to the British style, and that already in American "linguistic and philosophical works, specialized terms are regularly punctuated the British way" (CMS, 5.13). Despite those arguments, the CMS holds, with little fervor, for continuing the American system in most areas. Apparently the CMS is voting for conservatism (stick with tradition unless you have a strong reason for change) rather than consistency.

My conclusion is that, as usual, whatever system I adopt, I should follow it consistently throughout a particular piece of writing. If the editors of a published piece don't like the system I choose, they can -- and will -- change it to match their standards.

I see three choices:

1. "I see no reason to sleep late," said the sergeant.

2. "I see no reason to sleep late", said the sergeant.

3. The sergeant said, "I see no reason to sleep late."

Example 3 shows rewriting as a solution. In certain contexts, that might be the best choice, but in others the writer might pay a price for doing so -- for example, awkwardness in reading "flow." That, is in the "flow" of reading.

P. S. -- I question whether the British system, if I have understood it correctly, is truly consistent. If it were, wouldn't example 2 be the following?

"I see no reason to sleep late.", said the sergeant.

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I can see a reason for putting a period and a comma inside quotation marks; it is when these marks stand for a pause (longer or shorter) in speech(or thought)and thus are the property of what is quoted. This is recognized with exclamation marks, which, representing the emotion of the speaker, ARE put inside.

So-----Jim said, "Close the door." then sat down. (note: the comma does not belong to Jim and is outside the quotation marks.

And-----Jim shouted, "Close the door!" then sat down.

It wouldn't be, "Close the door"!

Nor would it be--------Jim shouted ",Close the door!"

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I can see a reason for putting a period and a comma inside quotation marks; it is when these marks stand for a pause (longer or shorter) in speech(or thought)and thus are the property of what is quoted.  This is recognized with exclamation marks, which, representing the emotion of the speaker, ARE put inside. 

So-----Jim said, "Close the door." then sat down.  (note: the comma  does not belong to Jim and is outside the quotation marks.

And-----Jim shouted, "Close the door!" then sat down. 

          It wouldn't be, "Close the door"!

Nor would it be--------Jim shouted ",Close the door!"

Now that Objectivism exists I think it's time we apply it to that which has so often been used to destabilize rational thought - irrational langauge rules and definitions. :)

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This question has puzzled me for quite a while

Darned if I know.

This gets even worse.  It turns out there are some punctuation marks that go inside of a quotation and some that go outside.

Here's what Patricia O'Conner in Woe Is I says.

Trailing periods and commas go inside of the quotation marks.  But, semicolons and colons go outside!

Question marks and exclamation points go inside the quotation marks if they're part of the quotation, but outside if they're not.  (This seems like what the rule ought to be for all punctuation, to me.)

Come on folks, use your minds!

Group 1: ,. <-----------> Group 2: :;!?

What are the similarities within these two groups, and what are the differences between them? Is it really that difficult to see?

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