Yes, there are certainly rules about punctuation, but they’re mostly boring and uncontroversial. “Put a comma after an interjection.” Okay, fine. The ones that are controversial, like whether to put periods inside or outside of quotation marks, or the Oxford comma, aren’t interestingly controversial. One person says “I put the period inside the quotes.” Another says, “Oh, I put it outside”. The former is more standard American style, the latter more standard British. What is there to argue? I like to wear shorts, and my friend likes to wear long pants. Who’s wrong?
All the interesting punctuation debates I have are internal, as I debate whether or not a comma is necessary in a given spot, or whether two clauses are sufficiently related to be separated by a mere semi-colon. Punctuating your writing is, I think, intensely personal, and you have to practice it to get your voice down. Whenever I edit a friend’s work, I always find instances where I’d change their punctuation (usually by adding a comma), but then it wouldn’t sound like them anymore. I always found this especially difficult when I’d look at my mom’s writing; she writes more directly than I do, and is much more frugal with her commas than I am, so my inner editor would be distracted noticing all the perfect nesting spots for commas in her sentences. Arguing about how to best punctuate is often like trying to convince someone that liking chocolate milkshakes is bad because strawberry milkshakes are good. The trick lies in realizing that there’s more than one good way to do it.
Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash,
Caret quote back-tick dollar dollar dash,
Bang splat equal at dollar under-score,
Percent splat waka waka tilde number four,
Ampersand bracket bracket dot dot slash,
Vertical-bar curly-bracket comma comma CRASH.
Use a comma to introduce a quotation after a standard dialogue tag, a brief introductory phrase, or a dependent clause, for example, “He asked,” “She stated,” “According to Bronson,” or “As Shakespeare wrote.” Use a colon to introduce a quotation after an independent clause.
As D. H. Nachas explains, “The gestures used for greeting others differ greatly from one culture to another.”
Put commas and periods within closing quotation marks, except when a parenthetical reference follows the quotation.
Holy fuck that's idiotic.
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