Saturday, July 26, 2008

Punctuated Equilbrium

I am just finishing Lynn Truss' book Eats, Shoots & Leaves and I have really enjoyed it. What I have enjoyed most is the vindication I feel. All my life I have struggled with the idea of punctuation and quotation marks. When I was young it made me avoid dialogue entirely. I remember in the seventh grade I wrote a 22 page story (the assignment called for three) and never wrote a single line of dialogue. This technique worked but not for long. It is very hard to avoid using quote marks in journalistic writing. I was forever struggling with this, which was weird because I've always been good with all other aspects of grammar and spelling. To me, the punctuation should go outside the quotes when it ends the whole sentence and within if it ends the quote.

Why did she say "you'll never see me again"?
Nobody heard her yell "Where are you?"

(That last example still bugs me because the sentence doesn't have en end punctuation. It needs a period but it looks crazy next to the ? in the quotes. Arrgghhh.)

Anyway, at least part of my dilemma has been solved. My friend in j-school used to say, "What's so hard? All punctuation goes inside the quotes!" but that is not entirely true. That is only true in America. In the UK the same hard and fast rule doesn't exist and they are far more flexible with their approach. Being that Canada adheres to many, but not all of, British language conventions I am still not entirely sure where we stand. I am relieved to know however, that my confusion comes from somewhere other than my own mind.

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