Quotes on Punctuation

*  The writer who neglects punctuation, or mispunctuates, is liable to be misunderstood. … For the want of merely a comma, it often occurs that an axiom appears a paradox, or that a sarcasm is converted into a sermonoid.  ~ Edgar Allen Poe

*  Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.  ~  F. Scott Fitzgerald

*  No iron can pierce the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.  ~ Isaac Babel

*  You practically do not use semicolons at all. This is a symptom of mental defectiveness, probably induced by camp life.  ~  George Bernard Shaw

*  Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath.  ~  Lewis Thomas

*  In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy and the semicolon quietly practices the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly.  ~  Lynne Truss

*  A period is a stop sign. A semicolon is a rolling stop sign; a comma is merely an amber light.  ~  Andrew Offutt

*  Used sparingly, the semicolon emphasizes your crucial contrasts; used recklessly, it merely clutters your page.  ~  Sheridan Baker

*  If the semicolon is one of the neglected children in the family of punctuation marks these days, told to stay in its room and entertain itself, because mummy and daddy are busy, the apostrophe is the abused victim.  ~  John Humphrys

*  From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.  ~  Winston Churchill

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Punctuation – Inside or Outside Quotation Marks

There is general confusion on the use of punctuation with quotation marks. Should the punctuation be inside or outside quotation marks? The confusion is understandable since it is seen written both ways – inside and outside. So, which is correct? The answer is – both. Here’s why –

According to the American style, the commas and periods (or full stops) always go inside the quotation marks. For example:

“Sam,” he said, “your dinner’s on the table.”

I like Shakespeare’s line “to be or not to be.”

So, the American rule is – always place the comma and the period inside the quotation marks.

In the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries where there is British influence, it’s different. Here instead of following a rule, logic is used. In other words, the placement of the comma or period depends on whether it belongs to the quotation or to the sentence that contains the quotation. For instance in the examples above, the first example remains as it is –

“Sam,” he said, “your dinner’s on the table.”

This is because the comma after the Sam and the period after the table belong to the quote.

The second example, however, changes to

I like Shakespeare’s line “to be or not to be”.

The reason for the change here is that the period belongs to the complete sentence and not the quoted material.

So, the British rule is – place the comma and period inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material, otherwise place them outside.

But the rules for the question mark, exclamation mark, colon and semicolon are the same in both the American and British systems.

The question and exclamation marks follow the rule of logic – they are placed inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material , otherwise outside. For example:

She asked, “Am I late?”

He screamed, “Help!”

But –

Did you hear him say “I don’t want to go”?

I can’t believe he said “I am scared”!

The colon and semicolon are always placed outside the quotation marks. For example:

I found three things in the new magazine “The World Today”: quality, information, and attractiveness.

The guard said “Stop”; I stopped.

Do you know of any other rules pertaining to punctuation and quotation marks?

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Perfect Writing?

punc cartoon 2(courtesy CartoonStock.com)

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The Importance of Punctuation

Punctuation is one of the most important aspects of written English, and yet punctuation 1it is one that is taken the most lightly. It is, in fact, this feature of writing that gives meaning to the written words… much like pauses and changes in tones of the voice when speaking. An error in punctuation can convey a completely different meaning to the one that is intended.

For example:

Your book, John.

Your book, John?

Although the words are same here, the two sentences mean completely different things because of the period (or full stop) and the question mark.

The same goes here:

Don’t stop.

Don’t, stop.

The comma after the don’t has made all the difference in the meaning of the words.

Another example of how punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence:

He was bitten by a dog which hurt him.

He was bitten by a dog, which hurt him.

The first sentence means the dog hurt him. The second sentence means the bite hurts him. It’s the comma after the dog that has completely changed the meaning of the sentence.

A classic example that is generally given when teaching punctuation is the best that can be. It’s this –

Take the sentence A woman without her man is nothing. Now see the difference punctuation makes:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

See how punctuation has made the same sentence mean two exactly opposite things?

It’s very important to know all the punctuation marks, their meanings, and when to use them in order to produce a good piece of writing – and more importantly, to convey the correct message.

Here’s a place where you can find some great punctuation tips :

PUNCTUATION TIPS

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