|Remember eighth grade English when Miss Ambrosia Tinsdale tried to force feed you the rules of quotation mark placement? Remember how you pretended to learn the rules and you even slid through Miss Ambrosia's gradebook with a C+, but by the second week of summer break you couldn't remember whether a comma or semicolon went *inside* the quotation mark or *outside*? Well, Miss Ambrosia has come back to haunt you. |
To say that the majority of published documents, both on the Internet and in print, contain mistakes with quotation mark placement, MIGHT be an exaggeration. But if not the majority, at least *many* documents do contain these errors. The rules are simple, really, but they bring back Miss Ambrosia's method of learning...you must MEMORIZE them!
Periods and commas go INSIDE the marks.
Colons and semicolons go OUTSIDE the marks.
Questions marks, exclamation points and dashes go OUTSIDE the mark UNLESS they belong to the quotation.
See how simple those are?
Okay, so how do we memorize them? Some ideas are:
*Write them on an index card and tape them to your bathroom mirror, over the kitchen sink, to your computer...anywhere that you will see and read the card often.
*Relate them to something you know well or something that has meaning to you.
For example (not a very good one, but what can I say?): You might remember that commas point INWARD and they have one "dot." Periods have one "dot," too, so they are treated the same as commas.
Then you could say that colons build a wall to keep things OUT and they have two "dots." Semicolons have two "dots" like colons, so they are treated the same as colons. Like I said, not a very good example, but you get the idea!
*Read them aloud. You will retain something that you both hear and see better than something you only see.
*Read them 21 times. It's said that doing anything 21 times makes it a habit. After 21 times your brain will remember something whether you consciously realize it or not.
*Learn with a friend. Maybe your friend knows other ways to help you remember.
*Make a rhyme out of the rules.
Periods and commas are INSIDE marks.
Colons and semicolons go OUT—it's no lark.
Question marks, exclamation points and dashes, too
Go OUTSIDE the mark UNLESS said by you!
Okay...so, I'm not a poet. I'm an editor, remember?
All rules of grammar are taken from The Little, Brown Handbook, Fourth Edition, by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane E. Aaron, © 1989, Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., USA.
Copyright © 1999-2000 Darlene Bishop. All rights reserved
worldwide. Email author for reprint permission.
About The Author
Darlene Bishop is a professional with over 16 years experience writing and editing ezines and newsletters, press releases, website content, sales letters, ads and much more, and is the author of numerous articles on a variety of topics.
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