Grammar Surprise

dialogue-window-148174_960_720I posted on my Goodreads yesterday: “Moving to Britain. They have better punctuation rules.”

Let me elaborate. 😉 I was helping my brother with his grammar lesson yesterday when I noticed a sentence that bothered me: Today we read the story “The Observing Judge.”

Why did the period come before the quotation marks? It looked totally wrong to me since in all my years of grammar study I’d never seen anything like it. Logically, the period belongs to the whole sentence–not to the title contained in it–and should come after the quotation marks.

I did a Google search just to find out whether the book or I was crazy.

Apparently, when in the US, put ALL commas and periods inside quotation marks no matter how crazy or illogical it seems. The British, however, are allowed to put periods wherever depending on the meaning of the sentence much like we do for question marks and exclamation points. They would write that sentence as: Today we read the story “The Observing Judge”.

One article explained the history this way. “Compositors―people who layout printed material with type―made the original rule that placed periods and commas inside quotation marks to protect the small metal pieces of type from breaking off the end of the sentence. The quotation marks protected the commas and periods.”

While writing The King’s English  (it’s like their version of Strunk and White) in the early 1900s, one Fowler brother turned to the other and said, “I say, this is a rum business! Let’s not muck about with printing press rules anymore. Move those periods. It’s logical.”

And so they did. God save the Queen.


Without knowing it, I’ve been using their rule my whole writing life. It is logical after all, Professor Kirk. 😉

What is one grammar rule that has surprised you?


3 thoughts on “Grammar Surprise

  1. I suddenly can’t remember one! Hmm. Well, the ellipses, for one. I used to think I could go on forever …………….. and just never stop with those periods …………………. and everything would be fine.

    Eleven-year-old me: ONLY THREE??? ARE YOU CRAZY???????

    Liked by 1 person

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