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.

Water your thoughts? My opinions on water in various contexts.

SECTION 0. MY FIRST DISPUTE WITH THE TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

In 2006, the TSA banned liquids. Being a clever, pedantic, and thirsty child, I arrived to the airport with a bottle of ice.

“You can’t bring that through security,” the agent explained.

I asked why.

She said, “It’s a liquid.” With a shit-eating grin, I replied, “But it’s ice.”

“I know,” she answered. “Ice is a liquid.”

SECTION 1: THE MOUTH

  • Saliva is under-appreciated.
  • Drool is disgusting.
  • Spit should be avoided at all costs.
  • The saliva of a lover requires further research, currently accepting applications.

SECTION 2: COMMON APPLICATIONS OF WATER

  • The water that makes up 80% of my body: Great.
  • 80% of your body: Passable.
  • 80% of Donald Trump’s body: No comment.

 

  • Water-based lube: good.
  • Tears: Bad, unless they’re being used as water-based lube.

 

  • Water is great for fish, camels, and rainforests, necessary for farmers, and hit-and-miss with New Orleans.

 

  • Showers are good, baths are great, and hot tubs are excellent.
    • The four differences between a bath and a hot tub are friends, chlorine, jets, and clothing. Realization: Friends and jets must be fabulous, because chlorine is awful and clothing is the worst.

SECTION 3: LOCATIONS WHERE ONE MIGHT FIND WATER

  • Cup: good.
  • Bottle: fine.
  • Pool: excellent.
  • Syringe: concerning.
  • Computer: oh no.
  • Bed: your fault.
  • My van: bad rust.
  • The statue of liberty: somehow delightful rust.

SECTION 4: LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS

  • SUBSECTION 1: FICTIONAL ETYMOLOGY
    • “Water” derives from the Latin “Wah-tah-ré,” meaning gift of the gods.
  • SUBSECTION 2: SYLLABLES
    • Wat: the Thai word for temple
    • Er: the sound often heard during the search for a hard-to-find word.
  • SUBSECTION 3: CURIOUS INSIGHT
    • Food, air, sun, earth, touch, love, mom, dad. Why is the word “water” two syllables when all other life necessities can be described in one?
  • SUBSECTION 4: WORDPLAY
    • Passable:
      • Water you doing? Water you talking about? Water you looking at?
    • Desirable:
      • Water you want to drink?
    • Too far:
      • Water you want her, the waiter, to wither while we a-waiter to order?

SECTION 5: TRAITS

  • Warm water: good for bathing.
  • Cold water: good for drinking and borscht. Otherwise to be avoided.
  • Hot water: Excellent for cooking.
    • Also means “trouble,” as in the phrase, “While exchanging saliva, Carol and I overheard the deafening footfalls of Principal Jerickson’s rotund personage and knew we were in hot water.”

SECTION 6: ENDING

  • Some say the world will end in fire, others in ice. I say the world already ended in a flood… or at least that’s what the Salt Lake City billboards taught me.

 

Special thanks to Brine Waves, a Salt Lake City writing group that invited me to their gathering this week, themed “water.”

Did you like this piece? Hate it? Throw a comment below so I can know what to write in the future. 

The hills I will die on:

1. Punctuating outside the quotation marks.

E.g.: The man told me, “You ain’t never been to Nashville ’til you been to Graceland”.

I’m still unsure about double-punctuating, e.g. She asked me, “What happened?”. I told her, “Sherol yelled, “Help!”. Open to thoughts.

2. Hyphenating -LY adverb constructions.

E.g.: “The greatly-appreciated man showed the onlookers around his gardens.”

Grammar is for clarity. this exception does not help with clarity.

 

More to come.