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.

Life advice:

Life advice:

  • You can get worried. Just don’t worry that you’re worried.
  • When one is sufficiently “out there”, one needs to explain what one is doing.
  • What if you just permanently paid attention to your values?
  • If money is speech, then businessmen are the most aligned with the way to acquire power.
  • Perhaps suffering builds discipline and discipline is a force-multiplier.
  • Money is a force-multiplier.
  • “Charity, clarity, levity, and brevity.” – The principles of JFK’s speechwriter.
  • One begins to keep things clean when one has sufficiently appreciated the value of habit.
  • Chicken broth always makes you feel better.

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.

 

Quotent Quotables, Volume 2

I’ve curated a list of recent quotes from my life, along with a challenge: Who said each quote? Me or Not-Me? (Answers at the end; track your responses to see how well you fare!)

  1. “You know that Carly Simon song? It’s about me.”
  2. “Sometimes I feel like I’m always rushing. Then I get some free time and it’s just the worst.”
  3. “When you eliminate the extraneous, all that’s left is you. When you eliminate the you, all that’s left is the Tao.”
  4. “Pickling is so great. They take cucumbers and make them edible!”
  5. “Nexterday. I mean tomorrow.”
  6. “I like spending time with people with low self-esteem—whenever we arrive at a problem, they’re too busy blaming themselves to blame me.”
  7. “I’m a coffee drinker, so cups of tea aren’t my cup of tea.”
  8. “You’re nervous. That’s okay. Just don’t be nervous about being nervous.”
  9. “My computer just told me it has an upgrade it wants to run. Let me guess: it’s going to make the computer run more slowly and not affect how I use it at all.”
  10. “The more I learn about how things work, the more I learn they’re stupid and poorly done.”
  11. “Avocado would be a great Halloween costume for a pregnant woman.”
  12. “With T-Mobile, you get free tacos on Tuesdays, but with Verizon you can make phone calls.”

To protect you from accidentally seeing the answers, please enjoy this anecdote: (Real! Real true! Real true funny!)

Context: A highschool couple eats dinner at Chick-Fil-A. The Girl has painted her face with such vigor that it lacks pores. The guy sports spiky hair, diamond hoop earrings, and flip-flops.

Girl: I don’t find comedy funny.

Guy: You don’t find comedy funny?

Girl: I find it cringe-y. It’s not natural funny. It’s like forced funny. I don’t like comedy movies because they’re not funny. I feel like the only comedy that I actually find funny is, like, White Chicks. Oh my god! We should watch White Chicks together!

 

(Scroll down for the answers)

 

(Keep scrolling)

 

(Who’s a good scroller? You are! Yes, you are!)

 

Those answers you’ve been waiting for:

1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 12 are by Yours Truly

Your Score:

0: You know me incredibly well, but prefer self-sabotage.

1-3: Next time, try flipping a coin.

4-6: You did flip a coin.

7-9: Let’s be friends.

10-11: So close and yet so far. Was it the pickling? I bet it was the pickling.

12: Self… is that you? I mean me? Are you… me?

I dislike “I don’t like” 

“I dislike fish” is different from “I don’t like fish.” The first establishes an existence while the second allows for a neutral feeling or no opinion.

Through linguistic constructs like this, the English language implies that liking is the existence of action and disliking is the absence. (In addition to “like, “I care” is an action and “I don’t care” is an absence. See also “I love” and “I don’t love,” as well as “I’m a fan of…” and “I’m not a fan of…”).

This language suggests that bad is the absence of good. In reality, however, good is the absence of bad.* Our language should reflect that.

*While I’m confident in this statement, I have trouble articulating “why” beyond simply giving examples. I suspect it boils down to the fact that “good” eventually boils down to our struggle against entropy, which is the always-coming bad.