The rules of punctuation can often be likened to the Pirate’s Code, as described by Captain Barbossa in the movie The Pirates of The Caribbean: “…the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” Nowhere is this clearer than when you start to talk about how to use quotation marks alongside of other punctuation marks.
For example, if you follow the American style, when quotation marks (inverted commas in Britain) come at the end of a sentence, you put the period (full stop in Britain) inside the quotation marks, whether or not it appeared there in the quoted material. But in British style, the full stop (period) appears outside of the inverted commas (quotation marks). Like so:
Putting the period inside of the closing quotation marks is known as “American style.”
Putting the full stop outside of the closing quotation marks is known as “British style”.
The same applies for commas: in American style, you put them inside of the quotation marks, but in British style, they’re outside.
But who in American decided that periods and commas should go inside of the quotation marks?
Typographers. They thought a comma or period outside of the quotation marks looked like it was dangling there all by itself, disconnected from the rest of the sentence.
But is this practice changing? Should it change?
Over at Slate.com, Ben Yagoda offers an argument for “The Rise of ‘Logical Punctuation’.“
What do you think, dear readers? Do you prefer American or British style?