Thursday, January 19, 2012

Craptacular Grammar Tip: Quotation Marks Gone Wrong

NOTE: In case you thought I might be unaware, I know that “craptacular” isn’t a word. It seemed to fit the quality of the examples, however. Check back for more posts in this new series!

Out of curiosity, I clicked a reputable organization’s free “Grammar Tip of the Day” link, to see whether I’d like to subscribe. I found this example and immediately thought that the only reason I’d ask for such a tip each day would be to provide fodder for One Step Forward. Why? At best the tip oversimplifies punctuating with quotation marks. At worst it gets the rule wrong.

I would perhaps not have reacted so strongly had the first example not been incorrect. If you use quotation marks you should only include the punctuation if what is inside them would stand alone. You do put commas and question marks inside quotation marks for dialogue but not song, movie, and book titles unless the punctuation is part of that title.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the tip should be rewritten entirely. Were I to be so foolish as to reduce the proper use of quotation marks to a single sentence it would read thus: “Punctuation only belongs inside the closing quotation mark when it is part of the quotation itself.” Don’t bow to “popular opinion”; learn how to use quotation marks correctly!

Remember that this does not apply to dialogue. In writing the spoken word the punctuation goes inside the quotation marks, though the period does not. Well, it does if it’s followed by another sentence in the same…I should write a post about this. Oh, wait, I did.

It offends me to see such sloppy advice sent out as “help”. If people unfamiliar with the grammar rules take this and its ilk as gospel it will further erode my ability to teach my children how to speak and write like educated persons. Oh, and you all, my dears.