Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Punctuation

This has nothing to do with the Bible; it’s just related to the way I write this blog.

On my personal blog—and in email, on chat, and in other contexts—I’ve gotten into the habit of writing quotations marks in the hacker writing style, instead of following American English standards for quotation marks.

Hackers tend to use quotes as balanced delimiters like parentheses, much to the dismay of American editors. Thus, if “Jim is going” is a phrase, and so are “Bill runs” and “Spock groks”, then hackers generally prefer to write: “Jim is going”, “Bill runs”, and “Spock groks”. This is incorrect according to standard American usage (which would put the continuation commas and the final period inside the string quotes); however, it is counter-intuitive to hackers to mutilate literal strings with characters that don’t belong in them. Given the sorts of examples that can come up in discussions of programming, American-style quoting can even be grossly misleading. When communicating command lines or small pieces of code, extra characters can be a real pain in the neck.

The article quoted goes on to mention that the hacker style of writing quotes is now preferred practice in Great Britain—however, in Britain, single quotes and double quotes are used in reverse to how they are used in America. e.g. in America you would write

Said John, “He said ‘I’m going to the mall,’ but I didn’t believe him.”

Whereas in Britain you would write

Said John, ‘He said “I’m going to the mall”, but I didn’t believe him.’

Canadians, who are neither British nor American—but almost both—tend to use American-style quotations. I, on the other hand, have picked up a mish-mash of both; I use double and single quotes where Americans would, but punctuate around the quotes like the hacker style above.

I have decided, however, to try and write this blog, from now on, using American-style punctuation around my quotation marks. I say “try” because the hacker style of writing has become very ingrained; I often find myself, in my professional writing career, having to go back and “correct” my punctuation using the American style.

My reason for doing so here is that I’m afraid some Biblical scholar will find my blog via Google some day, pop in, and start harassing me about my punctuation not being grammatical. Priests and Reverends and Pastors (and whatever other titles you can think of) love education, and it’s exactly the type of thing that I can see them being overly worried about.
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