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  1. #1
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    Quotes and Periods

    A writing coach received my chapter that included these sentences:

    When I agreed to live with Nick, I neglected to point out that I expected this step would lead to marriage. I might start a sentence, “After we’re married this or when we’re married that.”

    She changed it to:

    When I agreed to live with Nick, I neglected to point out that I expected this step would lead to marriage. I might start a sentence, “After we’re married this or when we’re married that”.

    I think she is wrong, but have not been able to find an example that proves either point.

    In simple language, what is the rule?



  2. #2
    Senior Member Keith .'s Avatar
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    I was taught that quotes always go outside sentence ending punctuation, as in your original sentence.
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  3. #3
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    I think she's wrong, too.
    Last edited by leslee; 04-13-2012 at 07:53 AM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member C Bets's Avatar
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    Me, too, although I always thought the "wrong" way made more sense in this type of example.
    Cindy

    And be at peace... the universe is unfolding as it should

  5. #5
    Senior Member Keith .'s Avatar
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    I think if you used single ticks to denote stress it would go inside.

    He didn't exactly eat 'everything'.

    Dumb example, but you get it. With spoken dialogue or a direct quote I think you had it right the first time. I would probably italicize the sentence because I think it looks cleaner as long as you don't abuse the practice.
    ________________________________________________

    People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.
    - Bob Dylan

  6. #6
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    In the US, periods and commas go inside double or single quotes. Semi-colons and colons go outside. The OWL has your answers here:

    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/577/02/

    Jeanne

  7. #7
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeanne Gassman View Post
    In the US, periods and commas go inside double or single quotes. Semi-colons and colons go outside. The OWL has your answers here:

    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/577/02/

    Jeanne
    This is a pet peeve of mine. For example, if some kid writes "Love and Kisses" on a rock outside a school, Jeanne's rule would force me to write the following sentence in this way:

    On the rock was written "Love and Kisses."

    See that? The kid did not write the period, just the words, but that stupid rule forces me to say that he DID write a period on the rock. But if you correctly apply the puncuation to what it applies, you write the sentence like this:

    On the rock was written "Love and Kisses".

    The period applies to the sentence, not the quote. Punctuation should always follow meaning, not some prescriptive rule. Now let's look at Bookwerm's example:

    When I agreed to live with Nick, I neglected to point out that I expected this step would lead to marriage. I might start a sentence, “After we’re married this or when we’re married that.”

    First, I point out that there's actually two quotes in the sentence, so let's correct that:

    When I agreed to live with Nick, I neglected to point out that I expected this step would lead to marriage. I might start a sentence, “After we’re married this" or "When we’re married that.”

    Now...a declarative sentence ends with a period. Are these quotes declarative sentences? Nope. It states very clearly that each quote is only the beginning of a sentence. Therefore we KNOW the period does not apply to either quote, it applies to the sentence as a whole. So I agree with Bookwerm's writing coach. It should be written like this:

    When I agreed to live with Nick, I neglected to point out that I expected this step would lead to marriage. I might start a sentence, “After we’re married this" or "When we’re married that".

    Meaning dictates where the punctuation falls.
    Last edited by John Oberon; 04-13-2012 at 08:39 AM.

  8. #8
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    No, John, rules apply to punctuation. If we were to punctuate under your guidelines, then grammar and punctuation would be completely arbitrary--even when the choice adds to the confusion. The writer could always claim, "I punctuated it that way because I the meaning dictated my choice." (Notice my period is inside the quotation marks.)

    Sorry, but I respectfully disagree. You may not like the rule, you may not feel that it makes sense, but it's still the rule and still the correct choice.

    Jeanne

  9. #9
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeanne Gassman View Post
    No, John, rules apply to punctuation. If we were to punctuate under your guidelines, then grammar and punctuation would be completely arbitrary--even when the choice adds to the confusion. The writer could always claim, "I punctuated it that way because I the meaning dictated my choice." (Notice my period is inside the quotation marks.)

    Sorry, but I respectfully disagree. You may not like the rule, you may not feel that it makes sense, but it's still the rule and still the correct choice.

    Jeanne
    It's not that I feel it doesn't make sense; it DOESN'T make sense. Tell me why I should follow a rule that distorts the meaning of my writing? Why should I write that the kid wrote a period on the rock when he didn't? Tell me how that makes sense. Without quoting some prescriptive rule (I already know the rules), explain to me how that is a good thing.

    There's nothing arbitrary in the least. You put a declarative sentence in quotes; the period applies to the quote, and you correctly placed the period inside the quote. What's arbitrary about that? If you don't have a sentence, but a word or phrase in quotes, the period does not apply to the quote because it is logically impossible. In general (there are always exceptions), you don't end words or phrases with periods, you end sentences with periods.
    Last edited by John Oberon; 04-13-2012 at 10:11 AM.

  10. #10
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    There's no point in arguing with you about this, John. You can either follow the rules or not, but if choose not to follow them, most editors and publishers will assume you don't know the rules.

    So, if I think a law doesn't make sense, I shouldn't be obliged to follow it? Just wondering...

    Jeanne

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