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Let's Change This Grammar Rule

Maybe this is just me, and if you don’t give a damn about grammar, then I apologize, please skip the rest of this post. This is about a grammar rule that should change.

The proper English grammar is to put the period inside the quotation marks at the end of the sentence. But what if the quotation is something to search for, or type, like a password. For example, this sentence:

Your password is "password."

In this case, do you type "password" or do you type "password." before pressing the Enter key? That’s confusing. Grammar is supposed to relieve confusion, not cause more confusion.

Here’s another example:

Just search for "business plan software."

What do I type into the search engine, before I click? Do I type "business plan software" or do I type "business plan software." and there again, the grammar confuses the issue.

The solution is for us to get together with editors and style guides and establish that the quotation marks used to set off the keystrokes counts more than the normal quotation convention. So it should be

Your password is "password".

Search in Google for "business plan software".

And for those of you who couldn’t care less about grammar technicalities, I apologize again. I realize most people couldn’t care less. But some of us do care, and in my case I’m going over edits for my latest book, and this comes up more than once.


  • Jami says:

    I am a court reporter and I do not have the luxury of rewording sentences so that they are grammatically correct because I have to type everything verbatim. In this instance, the rule I use is that the punctuation is always inside the quote, except if it changes the quote. For example, if you have a question being posed, and the question is ended with a quote that is not a question, the question mark/punctuation goes outside the quote, i.e.: Did you specifically say to the person, "Stay away from there"?
    So, regarding your inquiry about quoting the specific password or URL, I would punctuate outside the quotation marks. Hope this is helpful.

  • Larry Sheldon says:

    "I don't think the issue is grammar, it is punctuation."

    Little did I know! Not punctuation either.

    Cheap-skate type-setting!

    I didn't know that.

  • Oliver Bendzsa says:

    Who knew the firestorm grammar would ignite?

    I was thrown off because the last book I read on the subject was from the UK (Eats Shoots Leaves) — and as Kelly points out — the colonial approach is based on logic rather than rigid rules.

    I was curious why US demands the period inside the quotation marks and found this interesting tidbit:

    As Larry suggests, perhaps it is time to start questioning grammar rules written because of outmoded technology, such as telegraph systems. It reminded me of the double space rule (double space should follow a period) taught to those who used manual typewriters. This style was later dropped (e.g. AP Style) because computer software now adds kerning following a "full stop."

  • Larry Sheldon says:

    And it occurs to me, that if Famous Authors would just start over-ruling editors (is that possible?) and doing what makes sense, pretty soon the syle books would be corrected.

  • Larry Sheldon says:

    I agree 100% with the objective here, but as a stickler-in-training, I don't think the issue is grammar, it is punctuation.

    And I do quite agree–the quotation punctuation should delimit the quoted material, no more, no less.

  • Kelly says:


    LOL. As a dedicated stickler, I love a good grammar post.

    Well, for one thing, you may know that the British don't put their full stops inside the quotation marks. So they're off the hook on this one. For us here in the States, there' s only one solution: reword the sentence so it's not at the end.

    I really am a dedicated stickler and a usability-nut as well, so I'd far rather a rearranged sentence than a period causing possible misunderstandings.



    P.S. Happy 4th!

  • Jamie says:

    I've run up against this exact problem (particularly in regard to putting a password in quotes at the end of a sentence), and I completely agree with you. There are cases where the period-before-parenthesis rule needs to be violated.

    As for your other example, Google ignores periods so it wouldn't much matter if you did a search for "business plan software."

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