Can’t We Come Together And Be Logical About Punctuation?

There are three things I wish for American to adopt:

  • The metric system
  • Japanese toilets
  • Logical punctuation

The first two are perhaps a bit too much for the average American to adjust too. However the last on the list, logical punctuation, specifically logical quotes, is something that I we can have. Only those sitting in the ivory tower of academia and the editorial rooms of the major publishers that are holding us back. Why should we be accepting of the definitions of “right” and “wrong” about our language by those who have vested interest to hold back change? We should not accept it, especially when the linguistic progress is pushed by logic over aesthetics.

Take a look at the following two sentences. Which looks correct to you?

  1. My boss said, “I need the filename,” so I searched for it.
  2. My boss said, “I need the filename”, so I searched for it.

If you are from America, you will probably say #1 is correct. If you are familiar with computer programming, this style feels quite – illogical. It has always made me cringe a little inside each time I place a comma inside quotes, and even worse when it is a period!

Evaluate the following sentence:

Use the command, “sudo make me-a-sandwich,” to compile the program.

We don’t know if the comma is part of the code, or part of the aesthetics of writing, so the correct form is to use the comma outside of the quotes. In this the case in American style of quotes, where the meaning becomes unclear with the standard use, but why stop there?

We sometimes use quotes for indicating sarcasm or to show meaning beyond the typical use of the word. When these word comes at the end of a sentence, to put a period or other ending punctuation in the middle of the quotes is not required, because it isn’t part of the word we are modifying with the quotation marks.

I think he did a “good job”.

I will excuse the tripple period mark, “…”, because it helps to indicate when a speaker’s words are possible being taken out of  context, or when you need to borrow two parts of a person’s words, but the middle is irrelevant or boring.

Her professor said, “Be sure to turn in your test… or else you will get an F…”.

My argument for change is simple, put whatever is in the original text or voice within the quotes and nothing more. There should be no difference in the style of quotation marks for different media or audiences. Quotation marks should be used as a vehicle for providing more information in an accurate and expected method.

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