Punctuation and quotation marks

Discussion in 'English Only' started by rich7, Aug 3, 2005.

  1. rich7 Senior Member

    Venezuela español
    When I get back to a dirty house at the end of the day, what do I say to myself: "Well, so much for cleaning my house today."

    I've wondered certain situations related to punctuation which one came up in another topic. In the above sentence, is a question mark needed? in "what do I say to myself? :.......... or is this correct that way?
    Besides, what about a question reported by sombody else?
    Example: "what do you want"?, she said. Is this correct?
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum <<PongoMod>> EO'Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There are variations between BE and AE in the placing of some punctuation marks, so be aware that I am speaking from a BE perspective, and not necessarily getting that right:)
    Yes, a question mark is needed. I would write:
    ......day, what do I say to myself? "Well, so much for cleaning my house today."
    Almost, but in BE we would place the ? inside the "", to read:
    Example: "What do you want?", she said.
  3. mylam Senior Member

    United States English
    As an AE speaker, I agree with panj's answers. :)
  4. Nick

    Nick Senior Member

    Western USA
    USA, English
    I don't like using a question with "said". If it is a question, it is "asked" or "questioned".

    You don't "say" questions, you "ask" them.
  5. Mark_S Member

    London, UK
    UK, English (Learning Spanish)
    If you're reporting speech then you can use say, because you are reporting what you said which is the same as what you asked :p
  6. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    When I get back to a dirty house at the end of the day, what do I say to myself? I say, "Well, so much for cleaning my house today."

    Without the "I say" (or something similar) the quotation is a fragment. Of course, I'm really splitting hairs, and the "I say" would probably look superfluous in a narrative, but technically speaking a sentence is not complete without a subject and a verb." And no, I'm not referring to the fact that the item within the quotation marks is a fragment; even if it were a complete sentence without the quotation marks, you would still need "I say" to make the actual sentence complete. Thus,

    What do I say to myself? "I need to clean my house today."

    is also incomplete.

    If you would like to use the colon, here's how you'd write the sentence:

    When I get back to a dirty house at the end of the day, this is what I say to myself: "Well, so much for cleaning my house today."

    <American English perspective>

    Doesn't British English use single quotation marks though?
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum <<PongoMod>> EO'Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Good stuff, Elroy - I was looking only at the punctuation when I posted - choosing to ignore other peculiarities and the dreadfully sloppy lifestyle of the person who set off in the morning leaving all that mess behind:)

    Closer to the point (ref quote), BE doesn't (normally, he added, for security purposes) use single quotes unless there are quotes within quotes.
    There are AE/BE variations in which way round these are used, and there are variations within AE and within BE, depending on which "house style" you follow - discussed on WR a while ago.
  8. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    That's exactly the way it is in American English. :confused:

    Where did I get the idea that it was different? Maybe as far as quotation marks enclosing other elements - not direct quotations - such as titles of poems and such?
  9. panjandrum

    panjandrum <<PongoMod>> EO'Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't know - but I can feel the vultures circling, waiting to pounce:)
    I think, emphasise think, there are differences for quotes within quotes, but I am not at all certain.
    I looked for the previous thread and found the one I had in mind:
    ...but it doesn't really address this point:eek:

    Digging around, I see plenty of references to the BE use of single quotes where you and I would put doubles, but often this is qualified by comments including:
    ...but mostly, now, in books;
    ...but the UK is increasingly moving to adopt the US usage....

    Obviously, I am one of the bits of the UK that has already moved:cool:
  10. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Well then ... I guess you Brits are adaptable to change, and won't continue to write/speak stupidly! Fancy that! And that brilliant spelling reformer had me convinced otherwise!

    All sarcasm aside - I wasn't aware that the practice was changing. Personally, emphasize personally, single quotes look strange to me where I'm used to double quotes, but I've gotten so used to seeing single quotes in British English that double quotes may start looking strange to me again. Reverse psychology? Inexplicable paradox? Oddities of the human brain? Clash between habit and modified habit? Psychological analyses are welcome.
  11. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    When I get back to a dirty house at the end of the day, what do I say to myself? "Well, so much for cleaning my house today."

    I don't understand the objection to "fragments." It's very old hat. If you make a "rule" against the use of sentences that can't be easily or logically parsed, the vocation of a grammarian becomes a lot easier-- but you reduce grammar to an intellectual exercise that isn't much good for explaining, or even describing, the English language as it is really used.

    "So much for that" is perfectly good English. Where's the subject? The verb? The object? Well, the astute and scrupulously honest English teacher can only say "what subject? What verb? What object? Who says there has to be one? Raise your hand, please."

    A guess at that point a student might raise his hand and wave a grammar book open at the section about sentence fragments, and quote a passage. But many will be sitting there thinking, "well so much for that rule."

    "Forget that." Is a proper complete sentence. It has a verb and an object, and the usual implied subject in sentences of the imperative mood. It can be parsed, it obeys all pertinent rules, and it means "so much for that." What we have here is an idiomatic expression that doesn't lend itself to categorization, but it is a complete, if simple and even cryptic, statement.

    "So much for cleaning my room" is not a fragment in any real sense-- it's missing no vital parts whose omission changes or obscures the meaning. Elevated into parsable (parsible?) English sentencehood by a simple substitution or translation, it means "You/let's (implied subject) forget (suggested imperative verb substitute for idiomatic phrase meaning same) cleaning my room (direct object in form of participial phrase)."

    Bottom line, the sentence is fine as written, except for the lack of a question mark, and even that is debatable. The "what do I ask myself" device has almost no truly interrogative pulse rate-- it's a rhetorical question at best, a straw man question, asked-and-answered as the objecting attorney might say.

    It lends itself to the declarative mood: What I say, when I return home to a messy house, is-- to hell with this noise! (or some such idiomatic interjection)

    Oh that's another thing that seems to have gone unnoticed. You need quote marks, quoting yourself, for the "answer" to a "question" you ask yourself? I'm beginning to see a certain apt congruity between the speaker's style of writing and his housekeeping.
  12. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I do appreciate the comprehensive monologue, but somehow you seem to have ignored a part of my post I conveniently placed in bold, thereby sadly missing the point.

    Here's what I said:

    I was saying that a lone quote (let's think of it as "XX" for the sake of argument) is - strictly speaking - a fragment. It doesn't matter what the content is - I did not elaborate on that nor do I find it relevant to the discussion - the point is that you need a subject and a verb to identify who said the quote.

    Furthermore, I did acknowledge that such punctiliousness is probably not advisable in many contexts (I mentioned narratives) but that the grammatical rule remains that a sentence has to contain a subject and a verb, regardless of whether the meaning is ambiguous.

    I remember you(r) mentioning that you encourage being a stickler when it comes to elucidating grammatical rules - if for no other reason so students know what teachers expect. Your drawn-out objection to my adherence to that policy seems to contradict your previously purported propensities. ;)
  13. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Well, here's the more complete version of what you said:

    I think it's fair to say you talk about fragments, and offer a solution in the form of injecting an "I say."

    I talked about fragments in a similar way-- like you I didn't come down on the side of strict (or punctilious as you say) obedience to rules.

    Like you, I reworked the sentence, but I took a different approach. I thought the sentence as written was not wrong, and I confined my editing to the sense underlying the idiomatic construction.

    I don't think I was dealing directly with your approach, but running on a parallel track. I do get a sense of objection to sentence fragments in most of what you say, though you include a boldface qualification. I don't think that qualification eclipses everything else said on the topic.

    I didn't miss your point, which among other things involved adding an "I say" to the original sentence. I simply dealt with different points within the same topic. And as you can see I didn't think the original sentence needed "correcting," but I definitely didn't give it four stars for style either.
  14. panjandrum

    panjandrum <<PongoMod>> EO'Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This comment was in relation to AE/BE use of single or double quotes.

    I have conducted an comprehensive literature survey since I arrived home. I'm glad I was cautious in my earlier comments;
    100% of the books I looked at used single quotes;
    75% of the newspapers used double quotes.
    Sample sizes: 3 and 4, respectively;)

    The Times, The Sunday Times and my local paper all use double quotes.
    The Daily Mail (we use it for cat litter) still uses single quotes HAHA:p

    You've missed a point in your remark quoted above :D. We old-world natives are remarkably resilient, adapting in our own way to necessary change; 'necessary', we define on our own terms.
  15. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    Alas, as the architect of the grammatical and stylistic misstep (?) that became the subject of such captious assertions, I feel I am entitled to share my opinion on the subject at hand.

    While the sentence phrase fragment in question may not have won many style points according to FFB’s stringent guidelines (for the record, I was seeking neither a Pulitzer nor Booker award for my reply), it did serve its intended purpose, which was to educate. As a former ESL instructor, it was my simple intent to construct a possible “real-life” scenario in which this phrase might be heard, and thus understood by the original poster.

    This phrase is part of what most would surely consider as “idiomatic” English. It is not part of formal written discourse, nor rhetoric, but simple, spoken word. One can argue whether forums such as these, in and of themselves, are intended to be “colloquial” in nature, and as such, be free from the absolutes of advanced textbook grammar. (*The sound of gasping grammarians echoes throughout the forums!*):eek:

    Arguably, the principal reason for this forum in particular is to offer non-native posters an opportunity to better experience the ubiquitous complexities that make up English grammar, both spoken and written.

    In fact, when reviewed (again, and again, and again), it can be easily argued that the original offending phrase, as written, was actually a thought process, or inner discourse if you will, in which fragments are most certainly welcome and acceptable.

    As to my aptitude in the area of domestic management, which was also called into question, suffice it to say my skills far exceed those of the subject of the offending phrase. However, from a stylistic standpoint, they seemingly fall short of the abilities of other posters whose personal décor consultants have taken to sort their books by color!;) :D
  16. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Perhaps it was the fact that your answer dealt pretty exclusively with the "so much for..." bit that led me to believe that you had missed the point. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

    By the way, I was not trying to eclipse anything with the boldface comment. On the contrary, I was trying to clarify my intentions lest readers misconstrue my comment as an opposition of the quoted material. As we all know, quoted material does not abide by grammatical rules - punctilious or otherwise - but ordinary sentences do. That was the purpose of emphasizing that part.

    Yes, I did talk about fragments - much in keeping with my "punctilious" style. As for your approach, perhaps you were trying to respond to what you saw as an "anti-fragment" position - but the reason your motivations may have been obscured was that you seemed to be defending the validity of a structure I never critiqued.

    Maybe I'm missing the point. :confused: If so, I deeply apologize. Perhaps a good concilitatory attitude on my part would be to view your contribution as a supplement and not a replacement.

    So much for a sentence that seemed so simple. ;)
  17. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I think you missed a point. ;)

    My comment was a sarcastic reference to the flippant curmudgeon of a linguistic tyro we both ran across in another thread, whose propositions you requested we shun completely as worthless. Remember? I guess I should be more cautious of my use of sarcasm in the future. :eek:

    Just for the record: I have absolutely nothing against British usage, nor do I expect it to adhere to American usage. I am personally a user and speaker of American English, but that is simply what I have grown accustomed to - not a universal prescription. As I said in the other thread, it was the British who spoke the language first!
  18. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I'm confused - I must have missed something again. :confused: Where was it that you kindled this hotbed of debate?

    Of course they are. As I said in a previous post, quoted material is not bound by any grammatical restrictions, since it is by definition spoken. I was referring to the entire quote - "XX" - allowed to stand alone. Grammatically speaking, the quote is one element, and that by definition precludes a complete sentence. That's why I suggested "I say" as a way to meticulously comply with the rules of grammar, nevertheless modifying my claim by conceding that certain styles may reject such "punctiliousness" as extreme.
  19. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    Hi Elroy,

    I originally posted the sentence in question a few days ago in another thread where a poster was asking about the meaning of the phrase: "so much for..."

    The phrase was one of many examples I used to help explain to him the meaning of the expression.

    Sorry for the confusion.

    The original post may be found here: //http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=42098
  20. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Hi GenJen54-- I'm glad you drew a distinction between yourself as the author of the "offending phrase," and its protagonist, who was so reluctant to do housework. Because that's who I was subjecting to such scrutiny. (sentence fragment)

    Furthermore, I didn't let my own housekeeping habits inhibit me from making an airily facetious analysis of that poor slob's "I said to myself, 'Self...'" grammatical construction. My rigor was itself a parody of sorts, and a self-reflective one at that. I had self-deprecation in mind, not opprobrium of the (unknown to me) creator of the quote by an imaginary speaker. Who was "slovenly."

    Please don't take umbrage!
  21. rich7 Senior Member

    Venezuela español
    I must say I'm overwhelmed by your replys, thanks....:confused:

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