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Rated: E · Essay · Writing · #1391797
a paper about a particular rule of writing
When a quotation is written down, the rule is to always place ending punctuation inside the quotation mark. Is this logical?

To decide if a rule is logical, one must compare what it means to the reality of the situation. Often, the reality is that the quote is a separate, complete thought, inside another thought, and this situation is not like different clauses of the same sentence because the sentence around a quote is not even a complete clause without the quote, so they are linked more intimately. This means that a quote sums up to a part or parts of speech that are part of the surrounding sentence, yet it is also often a separate sentence in its own right. This means that a quote is often part of two separate thoughts, which means the quote and the surrounding thought each have a corresponding ending punctuation. For example, in the sentence "I said, 'How are you?'" "How are you?" is a noun in the surrounding sentence, which we know because it can be replaced with the word "that," another noun, yet it is also a complete thought on its own. The corresponding ending punctuation of the quote is a question mark, while that of the surrounding sentence is a period. This does not apply to a quote that is dependent on the words of the surrounding thought to make a complete clause, such as "He said that they all 'went to the same place.'" In this case, only the surrounding thought has its own corresponding ending punctuation.

Also, we should consider the meaning of the quotation marks themselves in determining whether this rule is logical. Quotation marks mean that the words within are ideas taken from another person or that they are different from their usual meaning in some other way. Part of the expression of ideas is punctuation, so to put the punctuation of the surrounding thought inside the quote is to claim that that punctuation helps express the ideas taken from that other person. Clearly, if one needs to be chosen, it should be the quote's. Currently, the one chosen is the one representing how it would be spoken, which generally leads to more accurate expression of ideas, with miscommunication aside.

More important, though, is the idea that, again, the quote and the surrounding thought each have corresponding ending punctuation, and to use only one ending punctuation is to claim that there is only one sentence. Furthermore, logically, the punctuation of a quote only helps express the ideas of that quote, because quotation marks are a means of separating entire thoughts, not just parts of the same sentence. This means that making one's interpretation, of the kind of idea that the surrounding thought is, based on punctuation inside the quotation marks breeds an incorrect understanding of what quotation marks are. Therefore, the practice that would match the reality of the situation is to use ending punctuation outside the quotation marks for the surrounding thought, and also correct ending punctuation for the quote inside the quotation marks, if applicable. This does not conflict with the belief that a sentence should have only one ending punctuation because, in reality, we are dealing with two separate sentences, separated by quotation marks.

Also, aside from the main topic of this paper, but related to it, is that if the quote is a complete thought, it should have proper capitalization to help express this idea. If a quote is a sentence, why should it not be expressed like one? Furthermore, this understanding of the meaning of the quotation mark would suggest that commas should also be placed outside quotes if they are not part of the ideas taken from another person. Also, a noun, in the form of a quote, does not need to be introduced with a comma, as it is in "I said, 'How are you?'" If the noun is replaced with another noun, like "something," making the sentence "I said something." it would not make sense to include it.

I am not an authority on writing rules, but this is what makes sense to me.
© Copyright 2008 swilliamson (swilliamson at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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