Levels of Distractibility: Who cares? = *. Some people will be distracted from your meaning: = **. Many people will be distracted from your meaning: = ***.
Question: I have heard you say that there is one mistake in punctuation people should never make. What is it?
Answer: Quotes. Remember that in America, periods and commas are ALWAYS placed INSIDE closing quotation marks. That includes single quotes. "According to her, everything was 'peachy clean.' "
"I read the story 'Most Dangerous Game.' "
In Britain and Canada, this approach to the closing quote is not followed. Instead, the comma and period are treated like the American question mark or exclamation point.
But the surest way to tip off how little a person knows about punctuation in America is not to put commas and periods inside closing quotation marks. I know. I was blasted by one of my teachers who disgustedly said to my class, English majors, that we did not even know enough to put commas and periods inside closing quotation marks. I never forgot his stinging criticism.
Level of Distraction: = (***). Make this mistake in America, and it's a dead give away that you know nothing about American punctuation in English. The one mistake you should never make!
Tomorrow: What to do about question marks and exclamation points in America.