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Punctuation rules of thumb?
#1  radius 01-22-2020, 11:00 AM
Does anybody have a good set of punctuation rules of thumb? I'm imagining something like Strunk&White for typesetting.

I tinker with turning some text files I have to epubs, and they come with a wide variety of "typographic" conventions since they date from before unicode or HTML entities were common -- lots of things that used to be represented by US keyboard-only punctuation and typesetting by spacing etc.

All the typesetting guides I've been able to find on-line go into insane amounts of detail about leading, and spacing, and how many words per line etc. that are both too in depth and yet not that useful to me.

Things I am thinking of include:

- on US keyboard, is the key next to the semi-colon an apostrophe, a prime mark or single quote? Which glyph should be used for contractions and possessives?
- Rules about quotes inside quotes; assuming conversion to left/right single quotes, do you space between the double quote and single quote? If so, is this a  ?
- when using a dash to separate clauses, which size do you use? Do you put spaces on either side?
- how about space after ellipses? Or only space after if it would be the end of a sentence?
- When italicizing, do you include the punctuation for a sentence. I assume this doesn't include the enclosing quotes for dialogue?
- For quotes that aren't part of dialogue, does the punctuation go on the inside or outside of the quotes? For example, should the question mark be on the inside of this "quote?"
- If you use indented paragraphs, when do you have a non-indented paragraph? I usually do for start of chapters or scene breaks, but how about after an illustration? Or a quote, letter, list etc. of some kind?
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#2  dwig 01-22-2020, 11:29 AM
One big fat "rule of thumb" is that you should generally ignore the typewriter based conventions as these are aberrations resulting from the limited range of glyphs available and the limitation of monospaced glyphs. You should, instead, base "modern" punctuation on style rules used for typesetting.
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#3  Jellby 01-22-2020, 03:31 PM
Not being a native English speaker, writer or reader, these are my answers:

Quote radius
- on US keyboard, is the key next to the semi-colon an apostrophe, a prime mark or single quote? Which glyph should be used for contractions and possessives?
I don't have a US keyboard, but I guess it's a straight single quote (the one I'm using here). In a text with any kind of typographic self-respect, use ’

Quote
- Rules about quotes inside quotes; assuming conversion to left/right single quotes, do you space between the double quote and single quote? If so, is this a  ?
No space. This should be a job for the font's kerning.

Quote
- when using a dash to separate clauses, which size do you use? Do you put spaces on either side?
Either — with no spaces or – with spaces. I tend to favour the latter in ebooks because it causes less line-breaking issues.

Quote
- how about space after ellipses? Or only space after if it would be the end of a sentence?
. . . with spaces around. Turn one of these spaces into   if it's something that shouldn't break (e.g. . . . ?)

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- When italicizing, do you include the punctuation for a sentence. I assume this doesn't include the enclosing quotes for dialogue?
I italicize what is meant to be italicized, not what just happens to be next to it. No punctuation unless it's part of a full italic sentence or something like that.

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- For quotes that aren't part of dialogue, does the punctuation go on the inside or outside of the quotes? For example, should the question mark be on the inside of this "quote?"
Same as above, punctuation outside.

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- If you use indented paragraphs, when do you have a non-indented paragraph? I usually do for start of chapters or scene breaks, but how about after an illustration? Or a quote, letter, list etc. of some kind?
In English texts, at the beginning of some kind of section or break in the narrative, not just because there's something a non-text element above. Or if it's a "fake" paragraph break (the same paragraph continues from the preceding text).
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#4  Quoth 01-23-2020, 08:41 AM
@Jellby
The … ellipses character is preferred to using separate dots as per ..., no matter if spaced or not.
Punctuation in dialogue goes inside quotes “Are you going?”

Many UK publishers use single quotes for speech and most US double quotes. “I prefer double quotes for dialogue as it’s more visible and then single quotes for a ‘quote’ in that or something in narration needing quotes.”

I only use ' and " for feet and inches or minutes and seconds of degrees.

If dialogue has a paragraph break it can be still indented, but end of last paragraph has no ” (closing quote), though the fresh paragraph of same dialogue has.
In general if indents are used for paragraphs, don't space also. If an element is centred, then usually a following body text or preamble text has no first line indent, but may have extra initial line space.
Any kind of section break should be centred text, but it can be an invisible break by having increased top margin on a style for first paragraph section with invisible break.
Use styles.

I agree with everything else of Jellby, very clear.
Also I use marginalia rather than hyperlinked footnotes, because they turn into endnotes that may or may not navigate back.
[Like this, also alternate font face]
Also consistency is important. Always punctuate time the same way (there is more than one option).
See also Trask’s ‘The Penguin Guide to Punctuation’. Also legally free from his own University website.
About 1/3 of ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ is on the apostrophe. Good on commas too.
Most books are poor on Dialogue Punctuation. Like what if tag is before the dialogue? Which are tags (so ,” never .) and what are actions (always .”)? The —, …, ! and ? ends of dialogue inside the quotes are the same for actions and tags.
Kate smiled ought to be an action, but it is usually used as a tag.
Then there is order: Kate said versus said Kate. Be consistent.
The – en is shorter than — em (width of n and m originally)
On Linux the Compose key is your friend, also AltGr does more on Linux and Windows US International Layout than Windows UK.

At end of dialogue the — em is interrupted speech and the … is trailing off speech (or a pause inside dialogue). So I use en – with spaces – as brackets, not em, but I think the comma is usually better. The 18th C to pre WWII UK uses the dashes a lot more. Be consistent.
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#5  pdurrant 01-23-2020, 08:57 AM
Quote radius
For quotes that aren't part of dialogue, does the punctuation go on the inside or outside of the quotes? For example, should the question mark be on the inside of this "quote?"
Does the punctuation belong to the quotation or to the sentence containing the quotation? If the former, the punctuation should be inside the quotation marks, if the latter, outside.

Did Radius say "For quotes that aren't part of dialogue"?

Radius asked "[..] does the punctuation go on the inside or the outside of the quotes?".
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#6  radius 01-23-2020, 10:27 AM
Whoah! Thanks for the answers, but I was using those as examples to show what I wanted from a reference

The Trask seems promising. I'll look into it, thanks!
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#7  pdurrant 01-23-2020, 11:00 AM
Quote radius
Whoah! Thanks for the answers, but I was using those as examples to show what I wanted from a reference

The Trask seems promising. I'll look into it, thanks!
All the rules can be summed up as follows:

1) Be consistent
2) Use punctuation to make the meaning of the text clear

You might not find a reference that covers both typographic conventions(right & left apostrophes, single or double quotation marks, en- and em-dashes, paragraph spacing and indent) and punctuation choices (where to place punctuation, oxford comma, etc.)
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#8  Quoth 01-23-2020, 01:39 PM
I agree, typographic conventions tend to be publisher centric and punctuation in style guides or writing orientated books.

Those are the two best rules. Ancient Romans didn't have punctuation, so no-one would publicly read a scroll without studying it to be sure of the meaning.

Because till recently (during my adult years), these were separate! Manuscripts, even if typed and even often on computer used *make bold* _Italics_ (less commonly underline). In fact many of these from Victorian era till 1990s are recognised and auto-converted by MS Word, LibreOffice Writer and most publishing software.
Your Wordprocessor will have a list of those it converts while typing and separately converts on import (copy/paste or insert).
You can usually do Ctrl-Z to undo "smart" conversion to really have an * at the start of a line , " rather than “ etc.

As an aside it's best to turn off Grammar while typing, word completion, word substitution, word collection and a few other things.
Do add custom dictionaries for each writing project or series and only add common words to the standard dictionary.

Commas are the most tricky. The BEST rule on deciding to put in or delete a comma is to first leave it out. If it is then ambiguous or bonkers put it in.
The Oxford comma is the last one in a comma separated list in front of the last item prefixed by “and”.
The three possibilities are:
1) Extreme USA, ALWAYS put it in.
2) Extreme UK, ALWAYS leave it out.
3) Trickiest, but IMO most logical. Only put in the Oxford comma if the list and sentence doesn't end with a single item and leaving it out creates confusion because instead of a single item it's more complex.
Option (2) only always works if a single final item.
Option (1) looks odd to non-American readers.
Don't use a comma without a “joining word” to join what might be two sentences. Leave them as two (called an evil comma splice). Unless the second sentence logically depends on a fact in the first sentence, then you can join with a semicolon. The two parts must be whole sentences.
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#9  Jellby 01-23-2020, 01:40 PM
Quote FrustratedReader
The … ellipses character is preferred to using separate dots as per ..., no matter if spaced or not.
My last memory was that, at least for the fonts I was using, the ellipsis character gave a totally inconsistent and ugly spacing and look, that's why I tend to avoid it. By the way, in Spanish the correct way is just three dots, no special character, no added spaces.

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Punctuation in dialogue goes inside quotes “Are you going?”
Yes, but I was talking about "quotes that aren't part of dialogue". Anyway, that example is a case where the question mark obviously (to me) goes inside the quotes, but this:

"I'm going home," said he.

is a case where you can say that dialogue punctuation goes inside quotes, although it logically (to me, again) doesn't belong there (he didn't "say" the comma: if anything, he said a full stop).

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If dialogue has a paragraph break it can be still indented, but end of last paragraph has no ” (closing quote), though the fresh paragraph of same dialogue has.
I don't understand this... I thought the pattern was:

“First paragraph.

“Second paragraph.

“Last paragraph.”
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#10  Quoth 01-23-2020, 02:03 PM
I'd not tell any non-English speaker how to do books in their own language. I only know a tiny bit about French, German and Spanish punctuation. I'm most familiar with British, Hiberno-British and least with American English. Conventions for a US or UK publisher are different apart from the minefield of spelling, meaning and idioms.

Indeed there are some subtle differences on US and British punctuation of dialogue.
Quote
"I'm going home," said he.
You might have
"I'm going home," said Bill.
or
"I'm going home," Bill said.
But
you'd have: "I'm going home," he said. Always, never: "I'm going home," said he.

The logic is that the speech tag (he said, Bill said or said Bill) is part of the same sentence as the speech. Hence the apparent redundant comma. Also it's why only titles and names after the closing quote are capitalised even if '. !, ?, — or …' is before the closing quote.

Try above with replied, asked, exclaimed, shouted.
Exclaimed:
"I'm going home!" exclaimed Bill.
OR (not as nice)
"I'm going home!" Bill exclaimed.
"I'm going home!" he exclaimed. Having 'exclaimed he.' is weird.

This also works:
"Is it time to go home?" exclaimed Bill.

In any writing it's best to be consistent with proper names in speech tags.
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