Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A "Grammar Revolution", Close Quote

Astute readers of this blog will notice my fastidious habit of flouting one of the long-standing rules of grammar, boldly and intentionally.

(In addition to my use of snappy sentence fragments instead of sentences, that is.)

To wit: I cannot -- will not! -- place a comma, period, or other punctuation before a closing quotation mark if it is not part of the title, word, or phrase being signified in the first place.

This goes whether the referenced item is an actual title or merely a "gaggle of words" which, if you were to "speak aloud", you would "enunciate archly" while holding up two "waggling fingers" on each hand.

To illustrate, here are some examples from previous posts:

      Grammatical but Dumb: Scrabble People watch Patrick McGoohan in
          "Secret Agent."
      Much, Much Better: Scrabble People watch Patrick McGoohan in
          "Secret Agent".

Dagnabbit, if the producers had wanted to call the show "Secret Agent." with a period at the end of the title, they would have called it that!

      Grammatical but Dumb: The Dresden Dolls describe their niche as
          "Brechtian Punk Cabaret."
      Much, Much Better: The Dresden Dolls describe their niche as
          "Brechtian Punk Cabaret".

If Hal Prince had included a period at the end of the word "Cabaret", Liza Minnelli would have come to a full stop in mid-chorus. We'd never have heard her call us "Old Chum". How tragic!

      Grammatical but Dumb: I know how to spell and pronounce
          "Schenectady," "Schaghticoke," and "Rensselaer."
      Much, Much Better: I know how to spell and pronounce
          "Schenectady", "Schaghticoke", and "Rensselaer".

No Rensselaer-educated computer programmer would dream of placing commas that separate instances of listed string variables inside the quotation marks that demarcate those string variables! Can you say "Syntax Error"? Hel-lo, World!!!

Clearly, Strunk and White never read Programming for Dummies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this revolution -- Our Revolution! -- Your Revolution! -- is gaining momentum! The need is urgent; the time has come. Our representatives in Washington must hear our voices. With your letters and, more importantly, generous contributions to the Committee to Avoid Misplacing Punctuation (CAMP), we will turn Congress in our favor on this "crucial issue".

(Right after it deals with the financial crisis and split infinitives, that is.)


  1. While I do not agree with what you say, I love how well you say it. -M. S. Ampere

  2. ee cummings would have flunked remedial English.<space><space>The purpose of the written word is to communicate, and a rule that interferes with that objective is "counterproductive", "illogical", and "dumb"!<space><space>Usage defines acceptable punctuation, not the reverse.



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