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  1. #1
    Copy-editor's Avatar
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    Default American punctuation and emphasis

    Hello,

    Happy festivities and a merry New Year to all.

    I've a question for American-English cognoscenti about where to place the final punctuation when a sentence ends with single inverted commas used for emphasis.

    Please note that I'm not asking about where to place the final punctuation for quotations. For Americans that's always inside the closing quote marks (usually double). This is concerning inverted commas used for emphasisand no, alternative styles are not allowed (so using italics is not an option for this question) nor is recasting the sentences. Life is hard sometimes.

    Here are two examples:
    The electrician was known as 'Sparky'.
    The music system was a bit 'middly'.

    Should those full stops be inside the final inverted comma?
    The electrician was known as 'Sparky.'
    The music system was a bit 'middly.'

    Thanks in advance for any replies. Would you please include a reference to a recognised grammatical authority so I can quote it?

  2. #2
    Masood_S is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: American punctuation and emphasis

    Quote Originally Posted by Copy-editor View Post
    Hello,

    Happy festivities and a merry New Year to all.

    I've a question for American-English cognoscenti about where to place the final punctuation when a sentence ends with single inverted commas used for emphasis.

    Please note that I'm not asking about where to place the final punctuation for quotations. For Americans that's always inside the closing quote marks (usually double). This is concerning inverted commas used for emphasisand no, alternative styles are not allowed (so using italics is not an option for this question) nor is recasting the sentences. Life is hard sometimes.

    Here are two examples:
    The electrician was known as 'Sparky'.
    The music system was a bit 'middly'.

    Should those full stops be inside the final inverted comma?
    The electrician was known as 'Sparky.'
    The music system was a bit 'middly.'

    Thanks in advance for any replies. Would you please include a reference to a recognised grammatical authority so I can quote it?
    Hello,

    In neither of your examples are the single quotes used for emphasis. The first one is to identify a proper noun, the second identifies a non-standard word.

    I am not American, but I feel pretty confident that the full stop should appear outside of the single quotes.

    Cheers
    Last edited by Masood_S; 02-Jan-2011 at 00:26. Reason: typo

  3. #3
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Default Re: American punctuation and emphasis

    You'll find few style guides for American English advocate the use of single quotes in any case. They are pretty much restricted to quotes-within-quotes.

    Put them inside and if writing for an American audience, use double quotes anyway. Or italics, if it really is a case of emphasis. I wouldn't put Sparky in quotes (single or double) though I would use it for "middly" (and hope that you'll explain what that means in the next sentence).
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  4. #4
    Copy-editor's Avatar
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    Default Re: American punctuation and emphasis

    Thanks for your opinion. I disagree about the inverted commas being used for emphasis. They are clearly there to emphasise the word around which they are placed. You later mention that you would not choose to use inverted commas for a nickname. That's okay, neither would I usually. However, should attention to the name need to be drawn, to emphasise it, inverted commas could be used. It's not wrong just because it's not your style.

    As mentioned in the question, italics are not an option in this case. Is your reasoning behind using inverted commas around 'middly' because you are not familiar with the word? In a publication for those interested in audio it would be a common term, and so would not require explanation. [The term 'middle', when used to describe the perception of audio, represents those frequencies to be found between the bass and the treble.]

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    Default Re: American punctuation and emphasis

    Quote Originally Posted by Copy-editor View Post
    I disagree about the inverted commas being used for emphasis. They are clearly there to emphasise the word around which they are placed.
    To this reader (a speaker of BrE, if that makes any difference), the inverted commas were not 'clearly' there to emphasise the word. I read them as identifying a nickname.

    You wrote to Barb: ' It's not wrong just because it's not your style.' Well, she didn't say it was wrong, merely that she wouldn't do it.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: American punctuation and emphasis

    ... and if writing for an American audience, use double quotes anyway.

    That implies the single inverted commas were wrong.
    I didn't say she said it was wrong.

    Emphasis means giving prominence to something. Your understanding of the word shouldn't depend on whether you speak UK or US English. Your positioning of that final stop may depend on such. That's what I'm asking. Barb_D echoes my own views on the placement, but I want an authoritative source as opposed to opinion.

    This thread arose through the difficulties of working to a 'house style'. Single inverted commas are used to emphasise/highlight/draw attention to a word, as well as to draw attention to/indicate a nickname. I have to comply with the style. I'm asking for help with punctuation.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: American punctuation and emphasis

    You asked specifically about American punctuation. I answered based on my experience.

    The AP Stylebook, which is one well-known style guide, doesn't use single quotes (inverted commas) for anything except quotes within quotes. Nicknames (used as James E. "Jimmy" Carter) or words used in unfamiliar ways get double quotes.

    Chicago calls for italics for emphasis, and allows quotation marks (outside of directly quoted material) only for "a word or phrase given in a special sense or purposefully misused" or "to enclose a translation of a non-English term." I was unable to find a reference to single quotes (except for quoted material inside quoted material) except for one use regarding botanical species. I don't have the full version, only what I can access online, so there must be more, but I can't access it.

    Your house style doesn't allow for italics and requires the use of single quotes for what AP and Chicago would double. So it's difficult to say what the American style guides would suggest, since on its face, the house style you're using is different from their styles.

    So, the only advice I can offer is to follow the same style guidance given for double quotes and always put the period inside.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: American punctuation and emphasis

    Great. Thank you. That's the sort of thing I was after. That AP and Chicago don't allow the single inverted commas is good and useful to know.

    It's not what I wanted to hear but it's good all the same. The style guide is from a British publisher who is doing well and now publishes an American issue too, so it could easily be non-standard. However, two of my American-lawyer clients do use single inverted commas, so it's certainly not unheard of in America (btw, they place the punctuation outside, as we would in the UK.)

    Accepting Chicago simply wouldn't use inverted commas to distinguish a word, does AP place the final punctuation inside or outside the closing (double) inverted commas for examples such as those given in my question (where the word occurs at the end of a sentence)?

    Thanks again for this reply. It must have taken some time to check what you wrote and I'm grateful. The style-guide references are essential if I'm to discuss this matter with the publisher in a professional way. Champion do!

  9. #9
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Default Re: American punctuation and emphasis

    I didn't check either MLA or APA... it's not APA... geez, now I can't think of what it is, but the academic styles. Maybe it is APA... in any case, I didn't check them, so they may allow the single quotes, and the lawyers are probably steeped in the academic writing tradition.

    All US periods and commas go inside the double quotes. It's SO not logical and I prefer the British way.

    AP made an odd reference to that, by the way. It said to follow the printer's standard of enclosing the period of comma within the quote. I almost read between the lines that they were blaming the printers for the lack of logic. I get it when it's actual type - you don't want that tiny thing to fall off the tray at the end of a line, but really... we don't use type any longer. Could the style please change?
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    momule is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: American punctuation and emphasis

    I believe that the use of single quotes within a sentence is a practice that is more reflective of speech patterns, used for clarification, or for emphasis, than of formal English usage. I have not seen a single reference where there is a double quotation mark at the end of a sentence with the period also being within the double quotes unless the quotation is a full sentence in itself and part of a larger sentence. In this case the sentence would read per this example:

    Mr. Jones, a friend of mine, always says, "Do your own work, please.".

    This may look awkward, but it is correct. An Am. English sentence must end with one of these punctuation marks: a period, an exclamation point, or a question mark. At no time are single or double quotation marks acceptable as final punctuation marks at the end of a sentence.

    While I recognize that the original poster is looking for documentation and not opinion in this matter, the fact is that the Am. English language is in a state of constant flux which allows for some degree of artistic license when using it. APA and MLA formatting are designed not as guides for correct English usage, but rather as accepted guides for the use of reference material in formal writing. Even masters at those formatting styles admit that there may be several accepted ways of doing the same thing within the same format.

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