Bench Memos

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A Last Note on Quotation Punctuation


Remaining open (as I strive always to be) to the force of persuasion, I have decided to abandon henceforth my experiment in unconventional punctuation of quotations.  I don’t think that I’m ready to go as far as Matt in his “embrace of arbitrary convention.”  (See, I just reverted to the convention.)  But I am persuaded by comments by Matt and by other readers (including my wife) whose judgment I respect that they found my former practice jarring and distracting.

By the way, a reader who is a designer of typography passes along this “eminently practical” explanation for the illogical American convention:

There are peculiar typographical reasons why the period and comma go inside the quotation mark in the United States. In the days when printing used raised bits of metal, “.” and “,” were the most delicate, and were in danger of damage (the face of the piece of type might break off from the body, or be bent or dented from above) if they had a ‘”’ on one side and a blank space on the other. Hence the convention arose of always using ‘.”’and ‘,”’ rather than ‘”.’ and ‘”,’, regardless of logic.

Tags: Whelan


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