1. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    A question to a British Punctuation Expert

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by dillseed, Feb 26, 2013.

    Hi. This is my first post and was wondering if you could help me.

    I'm so very confused about the correct usage of British punctuation marks and the placement of the commas and full stops.

    Have I correctly punctuated the sentences below per British style? Please, no suggested recasting. I'm trying to grasp British punctuation.

    1. When Madeline said, "I want you to attend the symposium on Saturday night", she was intent on delivering a surprise message.
    [Comma outside (",) the quote mark - per British style - as exampled above?]

    2. When she screamed "Shut the hell up!", she startled Margaret's nephew.
    [Same question. Comma outside the quote marks as shown?]

    3. When she asked "Where's the nearest restaurant?", the old man told her it was three miles up the highway.
    [Same question. Comma outside the quote marks as shown?]

    4a. Sally said, "I heard Mike say, 'Be careful what you say to Robert'."

    4b. Sally said, "I heard Mike say, 'Be careful what you say to Robert.'"

    Paying attention to the ending punctuation and placement of full stops, which is truly correct per British style - 4a or 4b?

    5. The sign said "Be aware of dogs." [Full stop inside as shown?]

    6. The email said "The meeting is on February 7 at 4.30pm. Bring your laptops and be punctual." [Full stop inside as shown?]

    7. I love the old proverb "No good deed goes unpunished."
    (Full stop inside as shown?]

    8. I don't like his sentence "Inveterate gambling may cause impotence." [Full stop inside as shown?]

    9. "The sign said 'Handle with Care'." (OR ... 'Handle with Care.'")

    10. "I love the song 'The Gambler'." (I say the ending ['."] is punctuated correctly.)

    11. She resented her husband's 'Why are you late?', 'What were you doing?', and 'Are you cheating on me?' questions.

    12. "I'm not going", Mike said.
    (Comma outside as shown?)

    Many thanks.

    dillseed
     
  2. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    As I understand it, even in British English you don't use double punctuation, ever, and almost always with full stops and commas they are outside any quotation marks unless the logic clearly dictates otherwise. So if there is punctuation that logically would be inside the dialogue, take out what might seem to make sense afterwards:

    Wrong - "I don't believe it!", he said.

    Right - "I don't believe it!" he said.


    From your examples:

    Wrong - Sally said, "I heard Mike say, 'Be careful what you say to Robert'."

    Right - Sally said, "I heard Mike say, 'Be careful what you say to Robert'".


    However, you asked for an expert, and I don't classify myself as that, so hopefully one who really does know the 'correct' usage will come along and make sure of the usages.
     
  3. JennyM
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    JennyM Member

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    Just a little passage from "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" - The Zero tollerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

    The bad news for punctuation, however, is that the age of printing is due to hold its official retirement party next Friday afternoon at half-past five.

    "I blame all the emails and text messages," people say, when you talk about the decline in punctuation standards. Well, yes. the effect on language of the elctronic age is obvious to all, even though the process has only just begun, and its ultimate impact is as yet unimaginable.

    "I write quite differently in emails," people say, with a look of inspired and happy puzzlement - a look formerly associated only with starry-eyed returnees from alien abduction. "Yes, I write quite differently in emails, especially in the punctuation. I feel it's OK to use dashes all the time, and exclamation marks. And those dot, dot, dot, things!"

    "Ellipsis," I interject.
    [​

    Hope that passage covers it? Love that book by the way, even though it is basically a children's book.

    Editted to add this passage: ".... set of working rules." At which ...
     
  4. GhostWolfe
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    GhostWolfe Member

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    British English punctuates within quote marks.

    You don't need an exclamation mark & I wouldn't recommend them in formal writing (you can use them, for emphasis, I just don't like them). In British English, it's not common to capitalise the first word of dialogue. Also, I believe that you should put a comma before the start of dialogue, but don't quote me on it.

    No comma needed, the question mark will serve the same purpose.

    No clue, sorry. I would use A, personally.

    Wait... now that I think about it, punctuation might be outside for non-dialogue quotes.

    Again, sorry, I don't know what the convention is for this case. The capitalisation would be correct for The Gambler as it is a title.

    I think this might be correct, but the sentence is very awkward. It would read better as "She resented her husband's questioning:".

    Comma inside, like the full stops.
     
  5. Mauthos
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    Mauthos Member

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    Not sure I agree, but then again I am not an expert in any way, shape or form.

    I disagree with the statement that a comma or full stop should be outside the quotation marks. From your examples, I am assuming the text within the quotation marks is indicating speech. Therefore, as far as I am aware, the comma or full stop should fall within the quotation marks. For your first example:

    When Madeline said, "I want you to attend the symposium on Saturday night," she was intent on delivering a surprise message.

    However, if it is not intended as speech, then the comma should fall outside of the quotation mark.

    Hope that helps.
     
  6. JennyM
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    JennyM Member

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  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't confuse punctuation for dialogue and punctuation for quotations. You are also adding commas where we don't generally use them in the UK (don't forget if there is ambiguity, it's because punctuation 'rules' are much less hard and fast than in the USA).

    I was trained in editing, but house styles can vary. Your list would be as follows, for me. I've used the British names for the punctuation as well.

    1. When Madeline said 'I want you to attend the symposium on Saturday night’ she was intent on delivering a surprise message. (no commas necessary)

    2. When she screamed ‘Shut the hell up!’ she startled Margaret's nephew. (no comma, especially not combined with an exclamation mark like that)

    3. When she asked ‘Where's the nearest restaurant?’ the old man told her it was three miles up the highway. (ditto above, with question mark)

    4a/b. Sally said, ‘I heard Mike say “Be careful what you say to Robert”.’ (As above we have single inverted commas for the direct speech, and double for the quotation, with full stop ending the quotation)

    5. The sign said "Be aware of dogs". OR The sign said Be aware of dogs. OR The sign said Be aware of dogs.

    6. The email said "The meeting is on February 7 at 4.30pm. Bring your laptops and be punctual". (as above)

    7. I love the old proverb "No good deed goes unpunished". (full stop outside because you are ending a sentence with quotation, not direct speech)

    8. I don't like his sentence "Inveterate gambling may cause impotence". (as above)

    9. ‘The sign said “Handle with Care".’ (if someone is speaking)

    10. ‘I love the song The Gambler.’ (you must italicise names of films/books/songs, not use inverted commas)

    11. She resented her husband's ‘why are you late?', 'what were you doing?', and 'are you cheating on me?' questions. (don't put capital letters in the middle of a sentence)

    12. ‘I'm not going,’ Mike said. (here, the comma goes inside because you are not quoting, this is direct speech)
     
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  8. JennyM
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    JennyM Member

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    Thanks Madhoca, going to print your response for easy reference.
     
  9. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    The relevant section to this thread is here: http://www.informatics.sussex.ac.uk/department/docs/punctuation/node30.html#SECTION00091000000000000000, at the end of the page.

    I think I may have been wrong in my second example if going with the logical view (which I prefer),

    Sally said, "I heard Mike say, 'Be careful what you say to Robert'".

    because it's probable that Sally's quote of Mike was complete, which would mean the full stop should be inside all the quotes,

    Sally said, "I heard Mike say, 'Be careful what you say to Robert.'"

    However, if her quote of Mike was incomplete, then the full stop should be outside.

    Edit: I really should look at the rest of the punctuation as well (doh!)

    Sally said, "I heard Mike say 'be careful what you say to Robert.'"
     
  10. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Thanks, madhoca. I thought that non-dialogue quotes (signs, statements, emails, etc) should have the ending full stops fall outside the quote marks. That was the biggest source of confusion with me - whether or not the period went inside or out in non-dialogue quotations. I see that it goes outside as exampled below.

    The sign said 'Keep off the grass'. (Unspoken)
    I don't like the sentence 'Do as I say, not as I do'. (Unspoken)
    I'm not familiar with the saying 'A stitch in time saves nine'.

    Thanks for clarifying this for me.

    dillseed
     
  11. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Last but not least:

    'That', he said, 'was a very interesting book.'

    Comma OUTSIDE the quote mark after 'that' because 'That' is part of the original quotation - ie the original sentence was: 'That is an interesting book', not 'That[,] was an interesting book'.

    But:

    'When I'm ready to go,' he said, 'you will be the first to know.'

    Comma INSIDE because the original sentence calls for it in terms of punctuation: 'When I'm ready to go[,] you will be the first to know.'

    Is my logic sound here and are my two examples correct?

    Thanks
     
  12. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    Your logic seems right to me.
     
  13. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Thanks to everybody for assisting me with this - greatly appreciated!!! :)
     
  14. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your logic is sound, but we don't quote like that with the quotation split down the middle. If it's a quotation it should be in double inverted commas anyway. What you have there just looks like a line of dialogue, in which case the comma should not be outside. A quotation would look like this:

    It is known that he always said "When I'm ready to go you will be the first to know".

    And yes, in the above the quotation ends with the word "know" but we don't put 2 full stops (one to finish the quotation and one to finish the sentence it is inside) as in:
    It is known that he always said "When I'm ready to go you will be the first to know.".
     
  15. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Thank you.

    So you're saying that per British style, do it like this, correct?

    'That,' he said, 'was a very interesting book.'
     
  16. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Ah-hah! 'The Oxford Guide to Style' says this, so I guess you can do either per British style.


    These may be presented:

    'Go home', he said, 'to your father'.

    'Go home,' he said, 'and never come back.'

    'Yes,' he said, 'we will. It's a good idea.'
     
  17. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    'Go home', he said, 'to your father'.

    This is uncommon in modern fiction, I think. It's used for academic/literary more.
     
  18. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Madhoca, last question on this. Without a recast, I say the comma falls outside the quotes because these are quoted sentences, not dialogue.

    Sentences as sentences (non-quoted dialogue):
    The sentences "It is what it is", "Waste not want not", "A stitch in time saves nine" and "Discretion is the better part of valor" were all used in his term paper.

    The same for adages mid-sentence:
    The idioms (sayings/adages/proverbs) "A leopard can't change his spots", "Between a rock and a hard place", "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" and "Haste makes waste" are all good ones.

    And the same for signs:
    The signs "Shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law", "Violators will be towed at their own expense", "Swim at your own risk" and "Beware of dog!" were all posted in their respective locations.

    Are these all correct per British style? I say 'yes'.

    After the final answer to this question, I will save this wonderful thread for future reference.

    These valuable threads are perhaps the best source of reference (for British punctuation) on the Net!

    Thank you so very much!

    Very respectfully,

    dillseed
     
  19. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Outside (as shown above) or inside? I say 'outside' because it's non-dialogue.

    This is the culmination of a great series of threads!

    A big thanks to all.

    dillweed
     
  20. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Can anybody answer this final question for me? I say that, in this case, commas go outside as shown above for the reasons mentioned - agreed?

    Thank you

    Very respectfully,

    Dillseed
     
  21. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I say the commas go outside the quotes, as they are to do with separation of the list of quotes, and aren't part of the quotes themselves.

    You've got it right with the "Beware of dog!" exclamation mark, as that would be on the sign therefore inside the quote marks. In fact, even if it was a quote of someone's dialogue I'd still put it in as it carries expression from the person's speech much like a question mark would.
     

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