1. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    British/Logical Punctuation Part II

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by dillseed, Feb 27, 2013.

    Hi again.

    Although we're quoting what we think the 'exact' words of another person are, they may or may not be the exact words uttered by the other person. How would we ever know so that we are punctuating it correctly? That being said, how do we handle the ending punctuation? Are the examples below correctly punctuated at the end of each sentence according to British style?

    "I don't like it when you said 'You're not being honest with me.'" Ending punctuation okay?

    Or should it be:

    "I don't like it when you said 'You're not being honest with me'."

    *****

    "I don't like it when you asked 'Are you a liar?'" Same question.

    Or should it be:

    "I don't like it when you asked 'Are you a liar'?"

    *****

    Henry said, "I heard Sally ask 'Where in the hell have you been'?"

    Or

    ... Where in the hell have you been?'"

    Thanks a lot.
     
  2. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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  3. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    Removing the quotation by reconfiguring the sentence is a possible option, but that's not what the OP was asking.

    So, from my unskilled mind, I'd refer back to a reply a gave in the other thread which is to put the punctuation either inside all the quotes or outside, but not between:

    "I don't like it when you said 'You're not being honest with me.'"
    or
    "I don't like it when you said 'You're not being honest with me'".
    but not
    "I don't like it when you said 'You're not being honest with me'."

    *****

    In this case, the question mark belongs with the quote as the quote is the question, so only this way:
    "I don't like it when you asked 'Are you a liar?'"

    *****

    Same here:
    Henry said, "I heard Sally ask 'Where in the hell have you been?'"

    -------

    Too illustrate the difference with the question mark outside, think on this:

    He said "Did you say 'I'm not happy'"?

    Here, the question is being asked about the quote, and the quote itself is not a question.

    It seems odd to put the ? outside the end quotation mark, but I believe that there is an aesthetic reason for not putting it between the two. Also, note that the full stop that may very well have come immediately after 'happy' in the quotation "I'm not happy." is also removed, again, I think for aesthetic reasons.

    But others may have different understanding and therefore only take my answer as part of a whole, not as a definitive statement on proper usage.

    =============

    Edit:

    Yet another question variation which I don't have the answer to is if a question is being asked of a quote that is itself a question:

    He said "Did you say 'Can I ask you about this?'"
    or
    He said "Did you say 'Can I ask you about this'"?

    when purely logically one might expect to see two question marks thus:

    He said "Did you say 'Can I ask you about this?'"?

    I imagine that it will come down to what the writer feels they prefer, but I stand to be corrected on that.
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    How can there be "correct punctuation" of something that has been said?
    If you are talking about a more academic context, e.g. noting down oral history where it is important to be word perfect, you transcribe the whole conversation, you don't put in "he/she said" or fiddle around changing tenses to make it reported speech. Same goes for police reports.
     
  5. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ach, people, get it right, British punctuation is doubles inside singles - ' "" '

    Only 'creative writers' use "double quotes." Hew:)

    Ultimately Oxford dic says it doesn't matter - is kind of sad to be pedantic about, but celebrate 'single quotes' - has been the way since computer typing. There's internet reasoning to be found.
     
  6. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    Is British punctuation any different from American, Canadian, Australian or any other English speaking nation? I'm British and read books from Britain and America and I've yet to notice any difference in punctuation. Or am I wrong?

    edited: apart from single quotation marks of course.
     
  7. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't reckon. All the fun's in the language. Some bloody Webster man ruined everything.

    There's a couple of expressions to watch out for - like 'thermalize' means to put on a coat, oh and some war in 1812 they always bang on about that never even happened.

    Worst thing of all is that our ancestors spoke like they do now. English used to be rotic til some regency types began saying issssue instead of ishew, or something like that - downhill ever since.
     
  8. GhostWolfe
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    GhostWolfe Member

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    Yup.

    US: Then she cried out, "Stop", and they did.
    British: Then she cried out, "stop," and they did.

    Note the position of the second comma & the use of capitalisation; also, the oxford comma is relatively uncommon in US English.
     
  9. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    Actually, because she cried out I'd write it like this:

    Then she cried out 'Stop!' and they did.

    This illustrates the problem with British English having a little too much leeway in the way things can be done.
     
  10. GhostWolfe
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    GhostWolfe Member

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    I kinda hate the use of exclamation marks. She cried out, we know what that means, ergo the exclamation mark is superfluous. But that's just a personal quirk of mine, like my severe rationing of commas in my prose.
     
  11. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    It could be written differently again, by removing the quote altogether:

    She cried out for them to stop, and they did.

    I am beginning to think, having read through these two recent threads on punctuating quotes, that this might be one of those guideline rules where if a quote can be avoided, then it should be.
     

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