General Question

wildpotato's avatar

Help with a quick grammar question?

Asked by wildpotato (13428 points ) August 26th, 2009

I know that for Chicago MLA format I should always put a comma, period, semicolon, or colon (rule sometimes excluding question mark and exclamation point) inside the endquote of something I’m citing from someone else’s text – but what if I’m quoting, and the writer puts a quote of her own in, or emphasis-quotes around a particular word, like so: “Uncanniness…puts Dasein’s Being-in-the-world face-to-face with the ‘nothing’ of the world; in the face of this ‘nothing’, Dasein is anxious with anxiety about its ownmost potentiality-for-Being.” The part I’m wondering about is the ”...this ‘nothing’, Dasein…” – do I switch this alternative comma-quotation mark style into my own, or stay true to the quote?

Edit – I can’t find anything about this in the manual or online.

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12 Answers

russian123's avatar

Stay true to the quote.

wildpotato's avatar

@russian123 That’s my first impulse, too – I’ve been trained to respect the quote. But what are your reasons for saying so – is this something you have seen written somewhere, or were taught?

charliecompany34's avatar

put “nothing” in brackets or italics.

wildpotato's avatar

@charliecompany34 Hm…but that would seem to be altering the sentence more than it would if I just moved the endquote mark, ne?

PerryDolia's avatar

I agree to stay true to the quote. Two reasons.

First, if there is no clear rule about this, the guide is to keep the meaning clear. Select the text and punctuation to clearly communicate with the reader. I think the original single quotes are clearest.

Second, it is in fact the quote itself. Minimum alteration is best.

marinelife's avatar

Repeat the quote as it appears.

wildpotato's avatar

Aargh! I just used another section from the text where there’s a sentence that conforms to the MLA style, and then in the following sentence it switches back again!: “We contend that what is primarily historical is Dasein. That which is secondarily historical, however, is what we encounter within-the-world – not only equipment ready-to-hand, in the widest sense, but also the environing Nature as ‘the very soil of history.’ Entities other than Dasein which are historical by reason of belonging to the world, are what we call ‘world-historical’.” I think these editors are just crazy. See, it looks so weird to do the ’.” instead of the .’” Whatever, you guys are right, I have to just follow what’s written, I guess. Good thing this is the edition the syllabus told me to buy; can’t really get into trouble – my prof wouldn’t be that anal anyway.

Jeruba's avatar

Put the comma inside the single quotes just as you would with double quotes. The editor and/or proofreader of your text messed up. It happens.

Do otherwise only when you are enclosing a literal string in quotes—for example, a variable name—and you don’t want the mark of punctuation to be taken as part of the literal string.

wildpotato's avatar

@Jeruba Aah, thank you, I knew you or Lex would stumble upon this question eventually. This is great, now I can calm my OCD and make everything consistent.

Jeruba's avatar

Once you finish your paper and get over the post-project crash, will you come back here and explain what understanding of Dasein conceives of Dasein as an entity that can experience anxiety? Dasein sure ain’t what it used to be, or else my memory’s taken more of a hit than I thought.

Are you sure it says colon and semicolon? or only when it’s part of the quoted material?

andrew's avatar

Before we go crazy on the editor, I thought I remembered reading in the manual that excluding punctuation while quoting around single words (or that hyphenated word) is perfectly acceptable.

This is the exact reason I always use oxford quoting rules (punctuation always outside quotes)—it makes much more sense to me.

wildpotato's avatar

@Jeruba, you’re right, colons and semicolons go outside. I found the relevant passage in a newer edition of the Handbook than I was looking at. This is from the 14th edition:

III. Distinctive Treatment of Words, Phrases, and Sentences:
A. Double quotation marks (“ ”): should be used for phrases used out of
context, words used as words.
B. Single quotation marks (‘ ’): may be used in special cases, e.g., for terms
having a specialized technical meaning, although this convention should not be
over-used. They may also be used when an author is trying to use a word
ironically, successful or not.
• When quoting a text, single quotation marks enclose quotations within
quotations; double marks, quotations within these, and so on. Commas
should remain inside single quotations (if inside double quotations in the
original) that enclose quotations within quotation.
C. Punctuation:
• In single word or phrase quotes (i.e., not citations), commas and periods
always go inside the double quotation marks—colons, semi-colons, and
question marks go outside. Likewise, in citations, commas, periods, and
question marks (if the question mark is part of the quotation) go inside the
quotation marks—colons, semi-colons, and question marks (if the question
mark is not part of the quotation) go outside. Thus, comma and periods are
always inside double quotes. When punctuation has been included inside
of double quotation marks, omit comma.
• All punctuation marks go on the outside of single quotation marks.

So I think this clears things up – it seems I was confused about the differences in rules between single and double quotation marks. But it does look as though the editor may have messed up the bit I mentioned in my second post above, since all punctuation is supposed to go on the outside of single quotation marks: ”...the environing Nature as ‘the very soil of history.’”

I still think that (’.”) looks weird, though. @andrew, I’ve never tried Oxford style; I’ll see if I can give it a try on the next paper.

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