This year’s eleventh resolution was “I shall make a 11th resolution before April 30th, 2013.” I now have one. Simply put:
11. I shall henceforth employ “logical quotation”.
In other words, if the punctuation isn’t part of the quote, it ain’t going inside the quotation marks.
This may bring the fury of the grammar Nazis crashing down on my head. This may cause people to think I’m stupider than I actually are. This may even end some friendships. And worst of all, it leaves a ugly gap between the bottom of the last character inside the quotation marks and the end-of-sentence punctuation outside them. Look at it up there, between the “n” and the period. Ugh.
But you know what? It’s right. It increases the precision and accuracy of the written quotation while sacrificing nothing in terms of comprehension. Seriously, can you think of a written sentence you could not understand because somebody pushed the comma or the period outside the quotation mark?
Language, whether written or spoken, evolves, and as long as it does so slowly and comprehensibly while improving communication, I think we should welcome it. It wouldn’t be that difficult to adopt– plenty of folks already use logical quotation, though we’ve traditionally called it poor grammar. Maybe those kids who couldn’t quite pin down the rules of punctuation in grade school were just ahead of their time.
Now, let me point out an exception to the above resolution. I’m willing to let others think less of me for my usage, but I’m not willing to let others think less of other others for my usage. For instance, when I write college recommendations, I will continue to use the traditional style. If I live long enough to see logical quotation spread wide and afar, accepted by even the most rectally retentive of grammarians, then in those far-off days, I’ll probably employ it in letters of recommendation. In the meantime, my students won’t be denied entrance to any college because it looks like their recommendations were flung together by some half-literate crank who’s trying to change the world one keystroke at a time.
English is a beautiful language, and I’d like to keep it that way. I don’t mind having eighty-seven different pronunciations for the letter sequence “ough”, because I’m used to the looks of it. Give me “doughnuts”, not “donuts”. But sometimes the gains in precision and accuracy are too great to be ignored, and so it is here with logical quoting. In today’s tumultuous world, that’s the stand I’m taking.