British vs American Quoting Styles

Reading over a Slashdot article on Google’s new look, the discussion somehow turned to quoting conventions and cardshark2001 pointed out that British and American quoting styles differ.

The site points out that in the US, “periods and commas go inside quotation marks regardless of logic”. However, the British apparently include punctuation such as commas and question marks inside the quotation when it makes more sense to do so. For instance, there’s an entirely different meaning (to me) between these arrangements:

  • I’d rather not rent “Dude, Where’s My Car?”.
  • I’d rather not rent “Dude, Where’s My Car”?

Eric S Raymond also talks more about this in the section on Hacker Writing Style of the Jargon File where he confirms that “Hart’s Rules and the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors call the hacker-like style ‘new’ or ‘logical’ quoting”. In any case, this “logical” style is one that I’ve adopted for some time and I’m pleased to learn that it has a grammatical backing as well.

2 thoughts on “British vs American Quoting Styles

  1. I agree. I’ve been doing the logical quoting thing for some time. The other rules never made any sense to me.

  2. Actually, I think the two versions of your “Dude, Where’s My Car?” quote are perfect American usage. I’m positive the second one is correct and the first one might omit the final period.

    Semicolons, colons, dashes, question marks, and exclamation points all go outside the quotes unless the punctuation is part of the quote. Only commas and periods have the unusual convention of always being inside the quote marks in America. It’s particularly ugly in lists:

    “The Clerks,” “Luke Havergal,” and “Richard Cory” are in Robinson’s Children of the Night.

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