In which the author seeks to duel for the virtue (Ha!) of the English language.

Is there some place a man can go to, say, duel whoever puts together scholastic and literary style guides?

Because whoever decided that we put a comma instead of a period in a line like:

“You hate this comma here,” said the grammarian.

That man, I would like to take to a knife fight. And I would bring a hammer. To demonstrate in a material fashion a way in which an author can be wrong, and yet right.

I loathe that comma used prior to the closed quotation on a line of dialogue.

“If dialogue does not continue past the said tag, using a punctuation mark that implies a continuation of the dialogue is illogical. I shouldn’t have to endure that hated comma. I contend that a period should be placed at the end of the dialogue, prior to the closed quotation mark, right here.” stated the bitter author.

“And yet, you are wrong,” said the laughing grammarian.

“I hate you,” sobbed the bitter author, as he complied with the rule he found esoteric and arcane. “At least in this part of the example, the use of a comma seems logical, as my dialogue continued past the said tag.”

“And yet, you cannot even follow a statement with a closed quotation mark and then a comma, as logical as that would seem,” said the grammarian.

“Is that so? Just watch.”, said the bitter author.

“And yet, you are still wrong,” said the grammarian. “And so you must endure my torturous trailing commas forever in all of your dialogue.”

And the bitter author wept.

This is the current reason a hammer resides on my writing desk.

Just in case I meet this man.


3 thoughts on “In which the author seeks to duel for the virtue (Ha!) of the English language.

  1. Using a comma at the end of a quotation makes sense to me when I think of what the sentence would look like without quotation marks. The intention is that the text inside and outside the quotation marks form one complete sentence, with the quotation marks clarifying which parts are spoken. It’s tempting to think of quotation marks like mathematical parentheses, where what’s inside is a logically separate and nested sentence, and that interpretation would make a terminal period more natural, certainly. Although, if you ditched the quotation marks for italics, as some folks do for “quoted” thoughts, I think the terminal comma would again feel more natural, because italics look less like parentheses.
    Sorry, not trying to be contrarian or anything. I just find nerding out on language enjoyable for its own sake. Thank-you for enabling me! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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