Tag Archives: grammar

Raging against the grammar machine

I’ve been getting lots of “S”-figured markings in my papers this semester, and probably throughout my seminary career. They always indicate that I should switch the order of a quotation mark and another point of punctuation. The rule is that generally punctuation at the end of a quote is placed inside the quotation mark. Here is Turabian’s more nuanced rule:

In American usage, a final comma or period always precedes a closing quotation mark, whether it is part of the quoted material or not (A Manual for Writers, 6th ed., 61).

I immediately run into trouble. I don’t like this rule and I refuse to follow it. There are some cases where I persist in thinking that a period or comma is better placed outside the closing quotation mark. Turabian goes on,

Question marks and exclamation points precede quotation marks if they pertain to the entire sentence of which the quotation is a part (A Manual for Writers, 6th ed., 61).

In my opinion, the same rule should apply to periods and commas, and that’s generally how I do it.

By the rules, I would write a made-up sentence from a Hebrew paper like this:

This is a better understanding of the word normally translated “peace.”

Why should such a short quotation get all the punctuational goodness? This is how I would actually write it:

This is a better understanding of the word normally translated “peace”.

Doesn’t this make more sense? Doesn’t it look better? My beef is essentially an aesthetic one. It’s a valuable element in the writing/reading experience. More than that, however, why should the rule be different for periods and commas?

Joel also pointed out that following the rule in lists results in back-to-back quotation marks.

…the words translated as “peace,” “judgment,” “righteousness,” and “justice.”

Here is how I would write it:

…the words translated as “peace”, “judgment”, “righteousness”, and “justice”.

My beef is an aesthetic one and it has mainly to do with quotations that contain only a few words. With longer quotations, I will generally follow the rule.

What do you think?

On the Y-word

Just to get it off my chest:

There is great variety in the way people spell the word “Yeah”.  I notice this every time Dixie writes “Ya”, which is what she means for the word I spell “Yeah”.   As I see it, the spelling should be as follows:

Yeah for “Yeah, I know” or “Yeah, that’s right.”

Yea (pronounced “yay”) for “Yea though I walk through the valley death” (in other words, most people shouldn’t be using this word anymore)

Yay for “Yay! I just won the lottery!”  or “Yay! The Captain and Tennille are reuniting!” 

As far as I’m concerned, “Ya” is always an incorrect spelling.  In my mind, it’s pronounced rather like a combination of the first half of “yawp” (or “yop”) and “yap”.  It’s different than “Yeah” and cannot be substituted for it.


Of course, I have begun to recognize in recent years that language is fluid and in many respects is simply what you make it.  But still…here I stand.

What say you?