On May 12, 2011, not one, but TWO of my friends and colleagues pointed me toward an article in Slate Magazine entitled, “The Rise of Logical Punctuation”. In the article, author Ben Yagoda explores the nuances of where to place periods and commas within quotations (inside or outside the quotation marks?).  Not long ago, I wrote an article touching upon much the same topic:  The Quandary of Quotation Marks (“ “).  My conclusion was that the British are much more logical than we are in the U.S., following the rule that punctuation goes inside the quotation marks only when it is part of the quotation.  How simple is that?  And yet I continue to follow the U.S. protocol.Slate Magazine

Slate Magazine itself, as well as The New York Times and the Washington Post, follow AP guidelines and put periods and commas inside the quotation marks.  But Yagoda references a Twitter post by Conan O’Brien, a Wikipedia entry on Frank Sinatra, and the website Pitchfork, all of which follow the British way, with periods and commas lying outside the quotation marks.  He also relates that his students largely refuse to follow the traditional U.S. rules even when they know they will be penalized for doing so.  I highly recommend taking a look at his article for an interesting exploration of why we choose to punctuate the way we do.

Last week my blog explored the distinction between grammar purists and progressives in Steven Sawyer’s guest article, Top 10 Obsolete Grammar Rules.  It looks like we can add number 11.  According to Yagoda, despite the Chicago Manual of Style’s adherence to the traditional style, we may be fast on our way to an obsolete punctuation rule – another feast for progressives.  As Yagoda claims, “A punctuation paradigm is shifting.”  Note:  even under the “new” rules, or the “new normal,” the period belongs inside those quotation marks because it was indeed part of the original sentence in Yagoda’s article.  Crystal clear, right?

By the way, “new normal” was the phrase chosen as “Cliche of the Week” last week by Chris Pash in his blog.

Do you choose to follow the progressive “new normal” when it comes to quotation marks?  Or will you remain a purist?  So far I’m sticking with the old fashioned way, but I feel a possible change erupting.

1 Comment

  1. Brenda, good stuff. And thanks for the mention of my guest article. I wanted to share that I correspond regularly with teachers and students from places like Russia, Ukraine, Greece, Argentina and Columbia. It appears to me, from their comments and writing that these countries are leaning more heavily towards learning British English, not only in punctuation and grammar, but in spelling as well. For example, the British spelling of these words differs from how we spell them: centre, litre, metre, colour, favour, honour, labour, to name just a few. Do you think we will ever adopt British English if it becomes the standard for most of the rest of the world?

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