In honor of the final 10 days of the production of Core Grammar for Lawyers (coregrammar.com), I’m reposting this column from Slate.com on “logical” punctuation.
Specifically, the author suggests that a punctuation trend in the U.S. is leading the way for U.S. writers to adopt the British style of punctuating quotations. In the U.S., we place the closing comma or period of a quotation inside the closing quotation mark, like this:
“Give me liberty, or give me death.”
The British, on the other hand, place the period outside of the final quotation mark, like this:
“Give me liberty, or give me death”.
Wait, let me pick a more appropriate quotation:
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.
The author suggests that the American fashion is based on aesthetics, not logic, and even quotes the head of the Modern Language Association, Rosemary Feal, which this English Ph.D. very much enjoyed:
If it seems hard or even impossible to defend the American way on the merits, that’s probably because it emerged from aesthetic, not logical, considerations. According to Rosemary Feal, executive director of the MLA, it was instituted in the early days of the Republic in order “to improve the appearance of the text. A comma or period that follows a closing quotation mark appears to hang off by itself and creates a gap in the line (since the space over the mark combines with the following word space).”
For those interested: Core Grammar for Lawyers has been my book project for the last year+ (even though it only exists online, it definitely took as much work as a book to write). My co-author is law professor Ruth McKinney. Our production team has pretty much carried the day these past months, keeping the authors in line.
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