Period pains

America has a different rule for punctuation at the end of a sentence in which quotes have been used. Below are what I believe to be the British rules:

If a sentence ends with a section encompassed by quotation marks, the full stop (period) falls "after the closing quotation mark".

"If an entire sentence falls within quotes, then the period is included within the quotation."

As far as I can tell, in American English (oxymoron?), the first rule is reversed, while the second rule remains the same. So sentences ending in quotations "end like this."

Similarly, quotations in American English that need to be followed by a comma have the comma included in the quotation; "whereas in British English", the comma comes after the quotation mark.

While I’m biased, I believe the British rules are more intuitive. For sentences ending in a quoted section, the full stop is ending the sentence, which happens to contain a quotation. Including the full stop within the quotation suggests that the sentence itself hasn’t been closed.

In the comma scenario, the comma is not something that was inferred as part of the quotation; it is intended to make the sentence within which the quotation sits read properly. As such, it belongs well and truly outside the quotation.

It’s minor, but something that I’ve always noticed since arriving on these here shores.


One Response to “Period pains”

  1. Shanahan on May 8th, 2006 04:15

    I didn’t know you still got your period. Are you PMS-ing?

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