I put the punctuation outside the quotes.

I put the punctuation outside the quotes. I also hyphenate adverbial constructions ending in -ly. I know these are “wrong”. I understand they’re conventions. The conventions are stupid.

A sentence ends with a mark of punctuation. A quotation may include a mark of punctuation in the quote: 

  • David said, “Where are we going?”
  • Did David say, “Where are we going?” 
  • Did David say, “We are going north?” 

Oh shit. You see the problem? It’s that third sentence. The one where your English teacher would demand the question mark go inside the quotes, but putting it inside the quotes is misleading. 

An English sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark. This system works. It doesn’t need to change when it’s in a fucking quote. 

I’d punctuate that last, dastardly question like this: 

  • Did David say, “We are going north.”?

Why? Because David spoke a fucking sentence.

Let’s reverse it. What if the sentence is a statement and the quotation’s a question? 

  • David asked, “Where are we going?”. 

See what I did there? I tossed a period into the sentence, after the quotation marks. Why? Because “David asked, __________” is a sentence. It should end with a punctuation mark. Omitting the punctuation makes us assume it’s a question… and David’s quoted query doesn’t make my statement an inquisition. 

Some will be uncomfortable with these ideas. “But my English teacher taught me…” Well, tough titties. Language lives. We grow and improve it. Did you know the word “okay” comes from a mid-1800s comedic misspelling of “all correct” as “oll korrect”? Is it stupid that old-timey people misspelled words for humorous effect? Yep. But aren’t you glad we now have that damn valuable word? Language is for communication. If it works, use it. 

Maybe punctuating outside the quotes “looks ugly” or “feels weird”… but think of our children! They’ll live in a much clearer grammatical world. They’ll inherit a world where the sentence is the sentence and the quote is the quote, where you can tell whether the person said a full sentence or not by checking the quote itself. 

  • Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon…”.

Without the ellipses in the quote, you’d assume that as his whole sentence. With the ellipses, you know he continued. 

  • He finished the speech, “… in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”. 

Grammar should make writing clearer, not hold onto outdated structures. 

Join the resistance. Punctuate proper.

2 thoughts on “I put the punctuation outside the quotes.”

  1. Julian, I enjoyed your fucking diatribe. I agree with you completely after your justifications. I shall try to change my ways. It’s just that without your explanations, I fear people with think me uneducated or ignorant of “correct punctuation.” Nonetheless, I will execute your changes!
    Ed You.
    Here’s a pet peeve I sent into Mensa. They didn’t publish it.

    There’s vs There’re, Is It Just Me? (I hope not!)

    Dear Mensa at large,

    I don’t know where else, or whom else, to say this to. Help me fix society! Or help me get over this . . . cus it kinda “sets me off!”

    If “there’s” is a contraction between “there” and “is,” and “there’re” is a contraction between “there” and “are,” then why, OH WHY, do so many educated, intelligent people, Mensans included, say, “there’s,” when they should be saying, “there’re.” Has anyone else noticed this, and does it set you off – too?

    Example: Most people would correctly say, “There are nine spots on the rug,” because in its simplest form, the sentence could break down into, “There ARE nine,” and not “There IS nine.” But when people slur the words together as a contraction, in common usage, they erroneously say, “There’S nine spots on the rug,” instead of ,“There’RE nine . . . (Any admissions of guilt, yet?) It makes me want to deconstruct their whole sentence, and say, “Hey, fix your contraction.”

    Many just seem programmed for “there’s.” It’s everywhere: newscasters, even in writing!

    And there are “where” variations, too! “Where’S my shoes?” Instead of, “Where’RE my shoes?” And, “ Where’s my glasses?”

    Commiserate with me next time you see me, light heartedly joking; but not.

    Ed You, Mr. Mensa 2014, for what it’s worth.


    1. Ed, great to have you on board! I shall henceforth tell the world that Mr. Mensa 2014 agrees with this grammatical stance – good clout to have!

      I 100% agree with you on “there’re”. It’s probably in part people’s avoidance of the back-to back -re. That said, I love contracting, even double-contracting: e.g.: “y’all’re going to the cookout, right?” or “there’ren’t any more cokes; want a Pepsi?” (that second one is particularly delicious), so see no issue with it. Let’s improve grammar, one word at a time!

      I’ve had the same situation re: punctuating & wanting to appear erudite. I asked Richard Lederer at one of his open talks why we put the punctuation inside the quotes; he said he agreed it was silly but that everyone does it because everyone does it. What a terrible reason for the world to suffer! We need more people like you and me willing to be the change we want to see, willing to bear the brunt of society’s confusion until… one day… things get better!

      Good to have you on board. There are ~6 of us now… oh, and also whoever wrote this wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manic_Monday .

      A small community, but we’re growing… and globalization will help!

      Pip pip!


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