I love to start my day by reading other bloggers posts. I usually find at least one gem to post on my Facebook page (check it out–lots of great writer-related stuff there!), but lately I’ve also found the same mistake made across numerous blog posts: the incorrect placement of a period. It’s a simple mistake and one I’m particularly aware of, since I, too, made it a million times before I got the rules through my thick head!
We all know a period comes at the end of a sentence, but there seems to be some confusion about its placement when other punctuation is involved. Here are three common examples and the simple rules to help you remember:
- Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. Example: “Mary wore red shoes,” he told us, “because she doesn’t own a pair in black.”
- The exception to #1 is when a parenthetical reference follow. Example: “Mary wore red shoes,” Smith wrote. “She doesn’t own a black pair” (13).
- When an entire independent sentence is enclosed in parentheses or square brackets, the period belongs inside the closing parenthesis or bracket. Example: Mary wore red shoes. (She doesn’t own a pair in black.)
- When matter in parentheses or brackets, even a grammatically complete sentence, is included within another sentence, the period belongs outside. Example: Mary word red shoes (because she doesn’t own a pair in black).
But WAIT! I’ve been speaking of American English . . . what about British English? And what about less “formal” writing, like text messages and (gasp!) blog posts?
According to Slate.com, “Indeed, unless you associate exclusively with editors and prescriptivists, you can find copious examples of the “outside” technique—which readers of Virginia Woolf and The Guardian will recognize as the British style—no further away than your Twitter or Facebook feed.”
Hmmm . . . so is this Slate.com writer saying common usage trumps the rules? I don’t agree; common usage and proper usage aren’t mutually exclusive, but I’ll continue to mentally correct those outside-the-quotes periods when I see them. What about you? Do you care where those pesky periods show up?
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*courtesy of the Chicago Manual of Style
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