1. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Comma Placement

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by tonten, Feb 23, 2010.

    Looking over my work, I'm not sure where to place the comma when I write sentences like these:

    Barry cried, “Here,” and threw the bone at Lucky.

    Barry cried, “Here”, and threw the bone at Lucky.

    Barry cried, "Here!", and threw the bone at Lucky.



    The man fell to the floor and had a heart attack. They rang the desk bell and screamed “Help!” to try and get anyone’s attention.
    The man fell to the floor and had a heart attack. They rang the desk bell and screamed, “Help!”, to try and get anyone’s attention.


    Thank-you in advance for your help =)
     
  2. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    For British/International English, only your first example is correct. I don't know if the second is sometimes acceptable in American English.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    cog nailed it...

    uk standard is to place comma and period outside the " " ... only the reverse is correct in the us... but uk/commonwealth writers/publishers are now often following the us rule, much to the chagrin of many die-hard traditionalists...

    as a nit-picking, unrepentantly virgoan editor, i have to mention that 'try and get' is very poor grammar... 'try to get' would be correct... but 'trying to get' would be better writing... and i can't see how more than one person would be ringing the same bell, can you?... ;-)

    hugs, m
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, this applies to quotations, not direct speech.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what is the 'this' you refer to?... can you provide the uk rule that governs it? [from an authoritative source]
     
  7. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    You could try referring to Project Gutenberg free ebooks.
    There are plenty of English authors’ works as examples.
    Such as, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde.

    Or - 'Stories by English Authors'.
    You will find this one under Wilkie Collins. There are many famous English contributors in this collection, Thomas Hardy to name one.

    The examples will show the English have written
    “----------,”
    “----------.”
    “---------?” like this for years.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Those are examples (mostly archaic at that), not authoritative references.

    An authoritative reference would be something like a major UK university's (Oxford?) grammar handbook, or an equally respected standard reference text.

    In the USA, The Little, Brown Handbook and The Chicago Manual of Style are among many recognized authoritative references, as are online grammar references from universities like Perdue.
     
  9. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    Mammamaia wrote ...

    uk standard is to place comma and period outside the " " ... only the reverse is correct in the us... but uk/commonwealth writers/publishers are now often following the us rule, much to the chagrin of many die-hard traditionalists...

    Sorry, I just thought if Hardy and Wilde etc. were writing like that all those years ago, it would be proof that the English did not put commas etc. outside quotation marks.
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, since we can't post links, although if you Google you'll find plenty of writing to support what I say, I'll just quote from a book plucked at random as a good example of punctuation in a modern British novel.

    Alexander McCall Smith La's Orchestra Saves the World published 2008 by Hachette UK.
    P.4
    'That's what I like about it,' said the man. 'This quietness. Do you remember that?'

    Note that punctuation is all snugly inside the single speech marks.

    In fact, I have been unable to find even a single example of any modern (i.e. printed in the last 5 years) novel on my groaning bookshelves, or in my university's library (we have the British Council library here) where the punctuation is printed outside the speech marks, and almost no examples of books published in the UK where double speech marks are used, although I've noticed double speech marks in some magazines.

    Of course, I'm not saying I just spent hours researching to prove my point on a forum. This is an observation based on a quick check, coupled with over 40 years of reading experience of British literary and academic books. I am generalising, I freely admit.

    But I AM very surprised at some of the ideas that come up on this forum about "what is common practice in Britain". Many of these ideas on punctuation and phraseology are actually not the least bit "common" in British writing, although I'm not saying they are never found.

    I strongly advise British forumers to take advice from a British, not a US, source if you want to remain in touch with your own literary culture, punctuation, spelling, and syntax. In fact, British writing "does and don'ts" can be flexible, but they DO follow what I can only describe as their own "style conventions". While it's fun to be open to other ideas, and there are excellent writers in the US, you should also be sure to read a lot of books by British authors which are printed in the UK, and be proud of your unique, British style.

    And I second this.
     
  11. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    When I saw the first few posts, I was waiting for everyone to start disagreeing.

    Simply put: if you said that British practice is to place the comma outside the quotations marks, you’re right.

    If you said that British practice is to place the comma inside the quotation marks, you’re right, too.

    If you live in the U.S., think yourself lucky. The British rules are a mess. You know that you’re in trouble when, in its section on the use of quotation marks, the 1000 page Oxford Style Manual (OSM) states, “[T]he rules are somewhat lengthy to state in full...”

    In brief, British punctuation is logical. If the punctuation is part of the quoted material or speech, you put it inside the commas. If it doesn’t form part of the quoted material or speech, you punctuate outside the quotation marks.

    The OSM says its preferred practice for academic books would be to write, ‘Have you any idea’, he said, ‘what “dilly grout” is?’

    The first comma is placed outside the quotation marks because it is not part of what was said. However, the OSM goes on to point out that the order is often reversed in newspapers.

    Bizarrely, Fowler’s Modern English Usage, also published by Oxford University Press, requires the first comma in the OSM example to be placed inside the quotation marks.

    The reason for the confusion

    The best discussion I have found is in Penguin Guide to Punctuation by R. L. Trask. He explains that while British practice is to punctuate logically, there is “one inconsistent and bizarre exception.” He states: "British publishers normally insist on putting a comma inside closing quotes, even when it logically belongs outside."

    And there it is in a nutshell: the reason why there has been so much confusion in this thread. The British rule—if you want to call it a rule—is to punctuate logically. But there is that bizarre exception with commas, which is causing the confusion. That’s why all the examples in the books referred to above have the commas inside the quotation marks. (Unless the publisher was punctuating U.S style.)

    This is digressing slightly, but in British English (if using logical punctuation), the period is placed inside the quotation marks if it is part of the quoted material. If it is not part of the quoted material, the period is placed outside the quotation marks.

    When a character speaks in a work of fiction, the terminal punctuation will almost certainly go inside the quotes. The reason is that, logically, it will belong to what was said.

    I repeat—if you live in the U.S., think yourself lucky!

    [Note: if you're wondering, I use U.S. style punctuation and double quotation marks when posting stuff on the internet.]
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Snip
    A good an accurate summary. For what it's worth, I'm not a publisher, so I stick with the logical style even in that latter case. :D
     
  13. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    Now I am confused.
    I have in front of me a Clive Cussler book.
    American in all respects.
    The speech has single quotation marks.
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want to be confused about punctuation (and a lot else), try Joyce's Finnegan's Wake.
     
  15. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    It all depends on the preferred style. That must be the publisher’s in house style. You can punctuate “U.S. style” but use single quotation marks.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    thank you, whiffet!

    the reason i said what i did is that many of my mentees are in the uk and commonwealth countries and i have to deal with commas/periods being outside " " in dialog all the time...

    those who do so tell me it's what they've been taught in school! [some are still in school, so it's not just a 'past' issue]... so how do you explain that?
     
  17. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hello, Maia.

    For young English writers, I can't explain that at all, since on the English secondary school syllabus ('key stage' whatever it is) only the most basic punctuation is expected, and it can hardly said to be 'taught'. I don't know if Scotland is similar, but I expect in some commonwealth countries punctuation is taught, though.

    I was checking whether or not to use an en or em dash last night for something, and came across the Oxford University's basic punctuation guide. It seems as good a guide as any to British usage, and the 'rules' are in fact exactly what I was taught (because in the early seventies we WERE actually taught these things).

    I quote (Source: Punctuation, University of Oxford):

    NOTE the position of the punctuation in the following:
    ‘This is’, he said, ‘a very interesting book, which you should read.’
    ‘This is a very interesting book,’ he said, ‘which you should read.’

    The comma is outside the quote mark, before ‘he said’, in the first case because it does not form part of the quoted sentence; it is inside the quote mark in the second case because it does form part of the quoted sentence.
     
  18. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which is exactly what I would expect, and which is what my daughter has been taught (because, contrary to your claim, this stuff is still taught in English secondary schools).
     
  19. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Basic punctuation may indeed be taught in England, as I said, but since the requirements for the GCE 'O' and 'A' Level English Language changed and 'key stage' type syllabus-based teaching monitored by OFSTED began, teaching of the finer points of punctuation is no longer compulsory.

    It is basically up to the school to interpret what 'shows a clear grasp of the use of punctuation and paragraphing' at level 8 may mean. The standards accepted are really not that high and there is no punctuation test for summative assessment of efficient punctuation use now when we compare it to the old days. There is a pretty big variation in achievement from school to school considering the fact there is supposed to be a 'National Curriculum' and sadly all sorts of marking scandals have arisen from this.

    I think the attitude of the British government and teaching profession towards standards of grammar and punctuation kind of shows why the present rather anarchic state has arisen today--although digitiq's point indicates how some kids are luckier than others.
     
  20. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    Good news. Much of what R. L. Trask says in his book (Penguin Guide to Punctuation) is available for free online. The following link is to Trask’s online guide. I think these notes must pre-date his book. I’d guess he fleshed them out for his book.

    Here is the link:

    http://www.informatics.sussex.ac.uk/department/docs/punctuation/node00.html

    You need to go down to the quotations section. For British readers, this guide should answer most of your punctuation queries.

    The part of the guide that deals with the punctuation of quotations is only of use to British readers (or anyone who wants to learn a bit about the British way of punctuating).

    One point to note: you’ll see that he objects to the use of the comma before quotation marks in the Nixon example. In his book he accepts (reluctantly) that most people want the comma, and he now accepts its use.

    In my opinion, Trask’s book is one of the most readable punctuation guides available.

    (He doesn’t discuss the bizarre comma thing in these notes.)
     

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