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Old 03-14-2019, 12:07 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdurrant View Post
had had had had had had had

English is flexible enough that it's possible to make a nonsense of any rule.
You left out four hads!
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Old 03-14-2019, 12:09 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
Good catch. As I understand it, in the US expect the punctuation to fall inside the quote regardless of whether it was part of the original text, in the UK it depends on the style you are following. New Hart's Rules, for example, merely notes the difference exists, noting that the US approach to this is "followed in much modern British fiction and journalism."
Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Only in American English. In Britain English the most common convention is that punctuation only goes inside quotation marks if it's part of what's being quoted.

E.g.

She said "Is it raining?"

But

Did she say "It is raining"?

Your examples reflect the rule in American English too. On my side of the pond, commas and periods go inside the quote marks, but other punctuation goes outside if it is not part of the quoted material.
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Old 03-14-2019, 12:40 PM   #18
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Getting back to the original question, the problem of quotes within quotes and the confusion that can result is presumably at least part of the reason that CMS thinks it's fine to drop them for signs.

It's hard to read something with several sets of quotation marks, as here:
  • Mary said, "I was going to open the door, but John stopped me: 'It says "Do Not Enter."'"
Eliminating the quotation marks for the sign definitely helps:
  • Mary said, "I was going to open the door, but John stopped me: 'It says Do Not Enter.'"
(I'd rewrite both of these, but I'm using the clunky examples to make the point.)
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Old 03-14-2019, 06:59 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertDDL View Post
But Harry's example was
Quote:
Did she say "It is raining"?
But what if she exclaimed "It is raining!"?
Indeed my example was intentionally altered (as I said, "just for fun") to highlight the distinction between comma and period versus question and exclamation marks.

New Hart's Rules (Oxford style), say that "only one mark of terminal punctuation is needed". Review Harry's original example in your quote, and realise the period from the inner quote has been dropped, so dropping either the exclamation or question mark would seem appropriate. I can't find an explicit rule about precedence of terminal punctuation, but I would generally drop the exclamation mark and keep the question mark.

Edited to add:

I finally got my hands on a copy of The Cambridge Guide to English Usage* and it addresses this issue explicitly (if not any more helpfully than I did): "Double question marks (??), or combinations of exclamation and question marks (!? or ?!), are to be avoided except in informal writing (and in chess). Where they might appear on either side of closing quotation marks (because one belongs to the quote, and the other to the carrier sentence), the sentence should be rearranged to avoid it."

* You can never have too many style guides: it makes me feel better to see diverse experts all taking subtly different positions on what is correct, and when you need some excuse to procrastinate you can start trying to work out whether you should be typing "installment" or "instalment", with the help of a dozen different authoritative references. (The Cambridge guide has quite an interesting discussion - noting that the original Oxford Dictionary set them as equal alternatives, and suggests the modern adoption of "instalment" in the UK might have come about because the US adopted "installment". All this I learned while I could have been wasting time working! )

Last edited by gmw; 03-14-2019 at 10:24 PM.
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Old 03-14-2019, 10:46 PM   #20
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The Cambridge Guide to English Usage is arranged a bit differently to other guides, so it took me a while to work out that the book does not appear to give explicit advice on the subject of short signs. However, the book does have some text that implicitly gives away the Cambridge University Press style:

"in the conventional sign NO ADMITTANCE."

"An official NO ENTRY sign makes access by"

"as when the sign says PROCEED WITH CAUTION rather than DRIVE CAREFULLY."

Notice the NO ENTRY version is italicized but the others are not. None of the examples I could find in the text were quoted, but all were fully uppercase.
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Old 03-15-2019, 05:29 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
(...) All this I learned while I could have been wasting time working! )
I think you've found the perfect argument for, and use of, style guides! I'd never want to let them interfere with my writing, though.
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Old 03-15-2019, 10:24 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Only in American English. In Britain English the most common convention is that punctuation only goes inside quotation marks if it's part of what's being quoted.

E.g.

She said "Is it raining?"

But

Did she say "It is raining"?
I did not know that, the logic of it makes sense though. I think I like the simplicity of this approach better than the American form. This approach seems to better preserve something of the context and intent of the quoted statement--including punctuation. My only challenge there is, at places where I have authored technical content as part of my job, the human editors and software tools we use will flag based on the American approach.

As usual, being a bit of an Anglophile, I tend to prefer the anglicized way of handling most things pertaining to the Mother Tongue. But I have to draw the line at things like "colour" and "realise." You will not be able to pry the American spellings of such words out of my cold dead fingers.
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Old 03-15-2019, 11:13 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
The Cambridge Guide to English Usage is arranged a bit differently to other guides, so it took me a while to work out that the book does not appear to give explicit advice on the subject of short signs. However, the book does have some text that implicitly gives away the Cambridge University Press style:

"in the conventional sign NO ADMITTANCE."

"An official NO ENTRY sign makes access by"

"as when the sign says PROCEED WITH CAUTION rather than DRIVE CAREFULLY."

Notice the NO ENTRY version is italicized but the others are not. None of the examples I could find in the text were quoted, but all were fully uppercase.
If they're using full caps in one place, and italicized full caps in another, they don't have a consistent style, and consistency is what a style guide should be all about.

Full caps are awful; you sometimes see small caps used for signs in running text, or in display text.

Just from a commonsense standpoint, the more you use typography or punctuation to make the sign stand out, the more important it seems--and generally, a sign doesn't deserve that level of importance; initial caps are enough.

FYI, here's the rule from Chicago, 16th edition (there's a 17th edition that I don't have, but treatment of signs is not included in the list of changes):

Quote:
8.196 SIGNS AND NOTICES

Specific wording of common short signs or notices is capitalized headline-style in running text. A longer notice is better treated as a quotation.

The door was marked Authorized Personnel Only.
She encountered the usual Thank You for Not Smoking signs.
We were disturbed by the notice "Shoes and shirt required of patrons but not of personnel."
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Old 03-15-2019, 08:02 PM   #24
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Thanks Catlady. That seems like a sensible style, and appears to leave the writer with some flexibility (writer gets to chose what is "longer"). For example I'd probably quote "Thank You for Not Smoking." As soon as you get uncapitalised words it becomes visually unclear whether it's one sign or two.
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