More writers are putting commas, periods outside quotation marks

May 13, 2011
Category: Uncategorized
It’s been standard practice in the United States to place commas and periods inside of quotation marks, notes Ben Yagoda, “but in copy-editor-free zones — the Web and emails, student papers, business memos — with increasing frequency, commas and periods find themselves on the outside of quotation marks, looking in. A punctuation paradigm is shifting.” Yagoda, who teaches at the University of Delaware, writes:

The punctuation-outside trend jibes with my experience in the classroom, where, for the past several years, my students have found it irresistible, even after innumerable sardonic remarks from me that we are in Delaware, not Liverpool. As a result, I have recently instituted a one-point penalty on every assignment for infractions. The current semester is nearing its end, but I am still taking points away.

In a 2007 piece (“Hater-ation for the Hyphen Nation”), Roy Peter Clark said of the Brits:

I hate it the way they leave punctuation outside quotation marks. Periods and commas look so cold and lonely out there. I think they deserve to be brought inside, comforted and embraced.

Yagoda wrote earlier this year in “The Elements of Clunk”:

A whole new strain of bad writing has come to the fore, not only in student work but also on the Internet, that unparalleled source for assessing the state of the language.

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