Graphic explaining when to put commas and periods inside quotation marks and the difference between American grammar and British grammar.

What Punctuation Taught Me About Changing Your Mind

As a university student, my professors often pointed out my error when I put the period or comma outside the quotation marks. It happened several times before I learned my lesson. Then, later as a professor myself, I often pointed out to my students that periods and commas always go inside the quotes. It almost became a pet peeve of mine when people would put periods and commas outside the quotation marks.

When I started blogging, I kept noticing this happening all the time. Many of my fellow bloggers put their periods outside the quotes, and I thought they were making errors. It drove me crazy! Then, I noticed that a lot of the bloggers who made this “error” were not American bloggers. They were blogging from another English speaking country. I finally learned that they were correct to keep their periods and commas outside the quotation marks because that was their grammar rule. You only put the punctuation inside the quotes when it is actually part of the quote.

I still like the aesthetics of the sentence better when punctuation is inside the quotation marks, but it is no longer a pet peeve for me to see them hanging outside. Further, it makes sense for them to be outside if they are not part of the quote. This reason was actually why I didn’t put punctuation inside the quotes long ago before I was corrected – often.

All this to say that if I can go from not understanding something at all, to understanding it a certain way to the point that this is the only way, to learning that not everyone does it the same way and appreciating their way when it comes to punctuation, couldn’t I learn that in other areas of life as well?

There is no shame in changing your mind about something when you learn new information to inform your decision. There is no reason to hold it against people who change their mind about an issue. People learn more and do better. I would be more concerned if someone never changed their mind about something, even when faced with new information.

This example is pretty simple. Most people don’t care about punctuation enough to draw philosophical conclusions from when to put a period inside a quote. I bring it up because it speaks to a larger problem I’ve heard many say about prominent figures and how the change their votes. They’ve flip-flopped.

I often say that I love learning, that I’m always learning. What good is learning new things if it doesn’t help me grow as a writer, as a person, or as a human being to other human beings?


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