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.

My Current Favorite Word

My current favorite word is “pejorative”, generally for indicating what I’m not doing. I frequently need to separate a word’s denotations from its connotations. Take the word “manipulate”. Denotatively, it means “to create change by influencing something… in a negative way”. That latter connotation is not inherent to the act of manipulating itself. One could manipulate the world in a strictly positive way, by using ethical means for a purely desirable end. To communicate that, I would say something like, “he manipulates the world around him, but I don’t mean ‘manipulate’ in a pejorative sense” to isolate the facts from the opinions. (Why use “manipulate” at all? It’s the most denotatively-precise word; more direct than “influence” or hands-on than “alter”.) Pejoratives are judging, and I appreciate the ability to remove that opinion.