Monday, 3 November 2008

commas in quotation

Why do they do it? I mean you, why do you do it? Put terminal commas and other pieces of punctuation inside the quotation marks? Like this, for example...

As Williams points out, Albania has 'a very odd-looking language to a Western European,' not to mention a large number of concrete pill boxes dotted about its countryside.

Or (less offensively) like this...

World Chess Champion, V. Anand, who just defeated V. Kramnik for the coveted title, told us what it was like playing the gruelling match in Bonn: 'It took a lot of effort and energy.'

This practice is very widespread - even in academic writing. But it looks ugly, and it robs the framing sentence of its own opportunity to send signals. In fact, when it comes to full stops, the frame sentence then doesn’t HAVE a full stop to bring it to a close. It it left hanging into the abyss of nothingness. Aaaaaargh!