27 July 2013

High Noon for a point of punctuation

“I say, the position of the full stop in relation to the closing quote mark depends on—”

“And I say the dang period always goes inside.”

"Whether the reader actually notices the position of the final full stop is rather dubious. Editors shed blood, sweat and tears over the issue, wrestling with anomalies not covered by the various rules; and the wastage of editorial time suggests there’s a lot to be said for a simple system. The American system (put it inside) is still easiest to apply in texts with a lot of dialogue . . . But for nonfiction writing, the practice of treating final punctuation for quote marks the same way as for parentheses has much to recommend it."
- Pam Peters, The Cambridge Australian English Style Guide, Cambridge University Press, 1995

I highly recommend this worldly guide as a reference for writers, editors, and an eye-opening tour of English's Babel, It is much more useful than a provincial tome like the Oxford Guide to or Chicago Manual of Style.

However, Peters would be useless at a shootout. I see her at High Noon sitting on the fence, yelling “Arbitrate!”.